Spring will be levy season in Delaware County, regardless if it rains or not.
On Thursday, Jan. 24, the Delaware County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved putting a 0.56-mill Developmental Disabilities levy on the ballot in May. The board also voted 2-1 to put a 1.2-mill Council for Older Adults levy on the ballot.
"I believe that the public will decide with their votes, if both organizations are providing the services needed and are being cost-effective," said Commissioner Dennis Stapleton. "We made some suggested changes to the Developmental Disabilities levy and now both groups will have to sell them to the public."
The Developmental Disabilities levy became necessary, said organization Superintendent Robert Morgan, after "we hit our own fiscal cliff last year. We lost $1.4 million in revenues at the same time we took on $2 million more in Medicaid match requirements."
Officials from the organization initially asked for a 0.8-mill levy but were convinced by Commissioner Ken O'Brien to reduce the millage to 0.56, which would cost homeowners roughly $17.15 annually per $100,000 in property value.
"We had initially calculated the millage to account for a modest increase in operating expenses and to account for what we're sure will be an increase in the upcoming years in the number of clients we serve," Morgan said, "but Commissioner O'Brien said he would support a levy that simply made up the difference from our lost revenues. I thought that was fair."
The Council for Older Adults has experienced explosive growth that necessitates not only a renewal of an existing 0.9-mill levy but an increase of 0.3 mills as well, officials said. The new levy would cost homeowners about $37 annually per $100,000 in property value.
"Unfortunately, there have been a lot of state and federal cuts to our program, and our levy dollars are lower than five years ago because property values have gone down," said council Director Bob Horrocks. "At the same time, Delaware County has seen an 83 percent increase in our senior population at a time when the state average per county is only 7.7 percent."
The increase, Horrocks said, is not an entirely bad thing.
"First of all, not every senior needs our help," he said, "and most of our volunteers are seniors themselves."
Horrocks told commissioners that the council provided in-home services to 5,000 seniors during the first 17 years of its existence.
"But we're projecting that in the next five years we'll provide in-home services to approximately 4,000 seniors," he said. "The proposed levy will allow us to keep pace."
Both Morgan and Horrocks said their organizations will hit the road to educate the public before the votes are counted in May.
"Would I like to be on the ballot by myself in May?" Horrocks asked. "Yes, naturally. But we understand that there are a lot of needs out there and that we're just one group."
O'Brien cast his vote against the Council for Older Adults levy, saying he favored a renewal but not an increase in millage.
"I was in strong support of a renewal," he said. "I expressed that and they chose to go the other way."