Union County commissioners are eying a local property tax as a way to provide what John Gore calls "a stable source of funding" for the Union County Children's Protective Services agency.
Gore is director of Union County Job and Family Services, which oversees the agency.
The proposed 0.75-mill, five-year levy would generate an estimated $1.2 million a year. If approved, it would cost homeowners about $23 a year for every $100,000 of home value.
This year is a revaluation year, so the numbers might change slightly once valuations are complete. The agency would not start collecting the tax until 2015.
County commissioners, who have the authority to put such a levy on the ballot, are facing an Aug. 7 deadline in order to get it before voters in November.
More than 60 people showed up at a public meeting June 18 to discuss the possible levy. Gore continued to stress stability.
"Most good businesses have a five-year strategic plan," he said. "We could put a strategic plan in place, but if we don't know what our money is, it's nothing more than a piece of paper.
"This allows us flexibility and stable, predictive funding for that five-year period and it allows us to put programs in place that not only help existing issues with families but also to help prevent future issues with families."
Last year, Union County Children Services took 1,248 calls that resulted in 459 investigated cases. The agency has a $2.7 million overall budget this year; $819,000 of that is available, if needed, from the county's general fund to place children who have been removed from their homes.
Gore and JFS Deputy Director Pat Williams would like to shift the focus of the agency away from a reactive position with a long-term goal of reducing the amount of money given to placements and increasing prevention and services funding.
"In 2012, we had over 1,000 actual calls and of those, we screened in 459," Williams said. "Last year, we had 71 kids in placement."
Gore said asking for a property tax to support children services is not a criticism of what the county commissioners have provided.
"They have done the best they could with our placement funding," he said. "We have received, over the last 10 years, anywhere from $600,000 to well over $1 million.
"We do the best we can. We are in compliance but there's so much more preventive work we could do that we're not able to do because it's difficult to plan," said Gore.
Williams said the levy not only would help with placement costs but could provide support for enhanced services such as parenting, independent living and prevention programs, kinship care support and community education.
"Long term, if we can take a better approach to helping these children now, then maybe we can keep their children out of the system later," she said.
Holly Zachariah of The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.