West Side News

Franklin County

Children Services agency seeking renewal levy

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Franklin County Children Services will seek a renewal levy on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The agency, which cares for neglected, abused and abandoned children, will ask voters to renew a 10-year, 1.9-mill operating levy.

The levy which is being collected at a little less than 1.76 mills will cost the owner of a $100,000 house $54 a year in taxes.

Voter approval of the levy renewal will not increase taxes, said Deborrah Armstrong, spokeswoman for the agency.

Up to 75 percent of the agency's current $180 million annual budget comes from two property taxes: the 1.9-mill levy that expires at the end of the year and a 10-year 3.1-mill levy approved in 2009.

The rest comes from state and federal sources.

Children Services, which has 700 employees, serves 30,000 children a year.

The agency's annual operating budget is roughly $180 million, 75 percent of which comes from the two property taxes. The rest comes from federal and state money.

Doris Calloway Moore, campaign manager for the Committee 4 Children, the pro-levy group, said the board originally considered adding 0.4 mills to the current request but decided against the increase, given the recent failure of proposed levies from Columbus City Schools and Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Moore said the board will look at the issue again in five years, when the second levy is up for consideration for the ballot.

She said Franklin County Children Services is the only local agency mandated by law to care for abused and neglected children.

"And with the increase of abuse and neglected children in our county, we see that they can get those services they need so they can grow up and be contributing members of our community," Moore said. "That's our goal."

In November 1958, voters passed the first property tax levy for Franklin County Children Services following the defeat of a combined welfare levy at that year's primary election, said Kay Marshall, a part-time analyst with the agency.

At that time, state law required Children Services' levies to expire at the end of five years, so levies were passed again in 1963 and 1968, Marshall said.

By 1970, the need for services was growing and county voters approved a new levy, giving the agency two levies to fund operations, she said.

By the time a renewal levy was on the ballot in 1973, state law had changed to allow for 10-year levies.

Later, the agency passed levies of varying lengths of time, with a goal of spacing the two levies so that one expired every five years.

That was done so the agency would not risk losing all local funding if a levy failed, so Children Services could be accountable to county taxpayers every five years, Marshall said.

 

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