Delaware News

County disabilities board's services rely on levy

Delaware County voters will decide this week on issue

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Officials with a Delaware County agency that supports disabled residents say its funding woes can be traced back to federal cuts and a lagging economy.

Now they say the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities needs the support of voters next week to maintain services for the county's disabled and developmentally delayed.

On the ballot Tuesday, May 7, is a request to increase the current levy by 0.59 mills. If it's approved, county residents will pay an additional $17.15 annually per $100,000 in property valuation.

The current five-year, 2.1-mill levy, which costs about $64.30 for each $100,000 in home value, was passed in 2011 and expires in 2016.

If passed, the requested eight-year, 0.59-mill supplemental levy would expire in 2021.

Board Superintendent Robert Morgan said the funding increase is needed to continue services in light of a $1.4 million shortfall in revenue from 2011 to 2012, thanks largely to cuts in state money and declining property values.

The budget is further strained by a $2 million increase in federally mandated Medicaid matching expenses, Morgan said.

"We have had a financial crisis, and we're trying to pull ourselves out of it," he said. "We might have been able to just continue had we not had such a monumental loss of revenue."

The developmental disabilities board connects disabled and delayed residents across the county with services that include transportation and physical, occupational, behavioral, speech and vocational therapy.

It also helps to fund the purchase of hearing aids, car seats, ramps and other equipment that has been modified to assist people with disabilities.

Failure of the levy would hurt services for all clients not backed by a Medicaid waiver and would necessitate the creation of waiting lists for services, Morgan said.

"For the majority of individuals we serve, there will be significant reduction or elimination of services if we can't pass it," he said.

The board hasn't requested an increase in voted millage since 1986, even as the county experienced explosive population growth. Since 1987, the board's client base has more than quadrupled.

Morgan said a cost-containment plan has helped limit board expenditures. Employee pay tables were frozen in 2009 and all salaries were frozen in 2011.

Overall staffing also was reduced by 11 percent in the past year. The board currently has about 83 employees.

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