Johnstown Independent

Disabilities board asking for 1.6-mill levy on May ballot

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Jeff O'Donnell said he was "blindsided" when he learned that his daughter, now 11, was developmentally disabled.

He said he turned to the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities for help.

"Parents don't know where to turn," O'Donnell said. "Their assistance gives you hope. It's immeasurable, the value we've received."

As a result, O'Donnell said he supports the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities' 1.6-mill replacement levy that will appear on the May 6 ballot.

If approved, the 1.6-mill replacement levy is expected to generate approximately $6 million per year and cost property owners $56 annually per $100,000 of assessed property value.

The previous continuing levy was for 1.3 mills and generates about $3.4 million per year, but the board is asking for an additional 0.3 mill.

The last time a request for additional millage was placed before voters was May 1987.

The board also is funded by a 1-mill, five-year levy that was first approved in 1987 and last renewed in March 2012.

This year the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities is expected to provide services and support to more than 1,500 eligible children, youth, adults and their families.

Board Superintendent Nancy Neely said the number of children and adults eligible for services has tripled since the late 1980s while the board has managed state and federal funding cuts by consolidating programs and partnering with local agencies to stretch its resources.

The board's operating funds have been reduced by $2 million annually as a result of cuts in state and federal funds since 2002. To compensate for that loss, the number of board employees was reduced by 55 percent, Neely said.

She said the board has also consolidated programs and buildings and expanded partnerships with the community to share services when able.

"The board does not have the capacity to serve more people without additional financial resources," Neely said. "We have aggressively used our local dollars as match (funding) for available federal funds.

"In this way, several million dollars have been generated for the Licking County economy annually to help pay for services."

However, she said without additional local funding, the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities will be ineligible for additional federal assistance.

"We all have higher expectations today about what people with developmental disabilities can do," Neely said.

She said the technical assistance, support and coaching the board provides families gives them the resources they need to raise their sons and daughters to become productive and contributing members of the community.

"That's good for everyone," she said.

ThisWeek is unaware of any organized opposition to the levy.

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