EATON — Representatives from Children Services met with the Preble County Commissioners on Wednesday, July 8, to discuss options to replace the children services property taxes from 1976 and 1979 which are set to expire within the next year.
Becky Sorrell and Jeff Centers represented Children Services and spoke to the commissioners about options to be placed on the upcoming ballot.
According to Sorrell, the levies are used to help cover the cost of child placement in order to protect children who would otherwise be living in unsafe conditions.
“The Children Services levy money is solely for the care and housing of children in Children Services custody,” Sorrell said. “It does not cover salaries, agency building costs, or administrative fees. It helps pay the cost of providing safe housing for abused, neglected, and dependent children in foster homes or other alternative housing.”
The current levies are based on property values from 1982 and cost residents $14 per $100,000 of property owned. This brings in $219,000 a year, which according to Sorrell covers about four months of placement costs. The remaining eight months are paid for by the county’s general fund.
Sorrell asked commissioners to consider a replacement levy which would cost residents $28 per $100,000 of property owned. However, Sorrell explained a replacement levy could potentially eliminate the need for the third levy from 1989 which is set to expire in 2017. If the renewal of the 1989 levy is determined to be unnecessary, the property tax drops to $21 per $100,000 of property owned.
A replacement levy would bring in a total of $549,600, which would cover close to 10 months of child placements, according to Sorrell.
Sorrell explained an increase in the levy has not been sought since 1982 but has become a need due to a cut in the funds provided by the state of Ohio who ranks last in the nation in terms of support provided for child placement — only providing 8 percent of total cost.
“The levy provides critical funds as State funds continue to be cut for support services to our children at a time when serious substance issues are providing huge challenges to families and the agency,” said Sorrell.
Currently, Children Services receives matching dollars for children at a rate of 63.02 percent from the federal government to help cover the costs of children being placed. The county is responsible for the rest of the placement costs for children who are removed from unsafe conditions.
Sorrell asked commissioners to consider a replacement levy over a renewal levy. Commissioners Chris Day and Rodney Creech supported Sorrell’s recommendation to seek a replacement levy, but did not promise the 2017 renewal would be eliminated.
Commissioner Robertson supports the renewal of the levy, but did not support the replacement levy, saying she would not raise taxes on the people of Preble County.
The replacement levy, if approved for placement, would appear on the upcoming November ballot.
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062 or at [email protected]