EATON — County voters turned down a .4 mill levy for the placement and care of children in the custody of Preble County Children Services during last week’s Primary Election.
Preble County voters were asked to decide on a “proposed replacement tax levy for the purpose of providing funds for supporting Children Services programs, capital improvements, and care and placement of children by Job & Family Services Children Services Division, at a rate not exceeding 0.4 mill for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to $0.04 for each one hundred dollars in valuation, for 5 years, commencing in 2022, and first due in calendar year 2023,” according to the issue’s ballot language.
According to the Preble County Board of Elections’ unofficial summary results report, only 6,912 of Preble County’s 28,330 voters went to the polls on Tuesday, May 3, to decide on the candidates and issues put before them on the Primary Election ballot. Of those voters, 3,113 (46.37 percent) voted for the replacement levy for Children Services, while 3,601 (53.63 percent) voted against it. (There were two overvotes, and 196 undervotes, according to the summary.)
“Preble County Job and Family Services thanks voters who supported the.4 mill- levy on May 3 to pay for the placement and care of children in Children Services custody,” Preble County Job & Family Services Director Rebecah Sorrell said in a statement issued on Monday, May 9. “While the replacement levy did not pass, local dollars are urgently required to support children in paid foster placements, group homes and residential centers.”
She continued, “Ohio relies more heavily on local resources to pay for child protective services than any other state. In 2021, the cost of placement for Preble County children was $2,641,110 and there was an average of 77 children in paid placement each month. The agency does receive some federal dollars to support placement for eligible children. There is a required local match of approximately 34 percent to cover the total cost for those eligible for the federal funds. For those not eligible, the cost of care requires 100 percent local dollars.
“In addition to the shared cost of placement, local dollars are also used to support children in adoptive placements, to purchase clothing, diapers, and other basic items needed to care for a child. No levy dollars are used for building operation, salaries, or other administrative costs.”
Sorrell noted, “Preble has two property tax levies that support children services. The .4-mill levy is currently based on property valuations from 1989 — more than three decades ago — and generates approximately $182,000 per year. The cost to the taxpayer is $5.50 per year for each $100,000 in property value. The replacement levy would have generated approximately $389,000 and cost the taxpayer only $14 per year for each $100,000 in property value. The .6-mill levy generates approximately $500,000 and was replaced in 2016. Since 2016, the cost of care for children in custody has risen approximately $855,000, with the average number of children in placement rising 18.5 percent.
“If these costs seem high, it’s because Preble County — and indeed, all of Ohio — is experiencing a crisis in accessible, affordable, appropriate placements for children in foster care.,” she continued, noting voters could learn more online at https://www.pcsao.org/pdf/advocacy/PCSAOPlacementCrisisReportFeb2022.pdf.
“There are not enough licensed foster homes willing to accept older children with behavioral challenges. The cost of residential treatment is rising, and more children are coming into care with high needs that require placement in such settings,” she explained.
Sorrell continued, “Preble County Children Services will continue to work to support children and families as we navigate new state and federal requirements as well as the lack of available placements for our children. If you have any questions regarding the costs of caring for children involved with Children Services, the necessity of the levy, or other issues regarding the work of Children Services, please don’t hesitate to call me directly at 937-472-2549.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.