By DENISE GRANT
Blanchard Valley Center’s five-year, 2.5-mill levy is up for renewal in the May 6 primary election.
The levy, which generates about $3 million each year, accounts for nearly 25 percent of the center’s operating revenue.
Together with the center’s 1.9-mill levy, local tax dollars cover about 51 percent of the center’s budget.
Blanchard Valley Center relies on local levy dollars and federal funding to pay for its programs.
Hancock County voters have traditionally supported center levies. In 2003, voters first approved the 2.5-mill levy by a 2-1 margin.
The Hancock County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities oversees the center, which provides programs for people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities.
The center includes a school that serves students from birth through age 21, an adult vocational and habilitative program known as Blanchard Valley Industries, along with other adult vocational and residential services.
About 500 people are served by the center, which has seen its population jump by nearly a third over the past five years.
“In terms of how the budget is doing, we are trying to maximize every revenue possible and keep spending in check,” said Steve Harper, business/Medicaid services manager for the center. “So far this year, our expenses and revenue are right in line with where they were this time last year, with minimal discrepancy.”
While the center has traditionally done well at the polls, Superintendent Connie Ament doesn’t want to take that support for granted. Renewing the tax means no additional taxes for Hancock County’s residents.
Keeping the center’s budget in the black, without asking local taxpayers for additional money, has taken a lot of effort, Ament said.
“It has truly been a team effort, looking at both ways to increase revenues, particularly federal Medicaid revenues, and ways to decrease expenses,” Ament said.
She said center officials worked to maximize aid through the federal stimulus in 2009, and secured $600,000 in grants from the Rehabilitation Services Commission. The center also has tapped into Medicaid Administrative Claiming Funds for about $100,000 per year.
Overall, Ament said, Medicaid reimbursements for case management, adult services and transportation services quadrupled between 2009 and 2012, increasing from $450,000 to $1.7 million.
She said the board also reduced expenses by combining positions, reducing positions, and managing salary and benefit costs.
“Services were streamlined and collaboration took place between the board and area school districts in transporting students at Blanchard Valley School, resulting in additional cost savings,” she said.
The center’s on-campus care facilities also reduced spending, saving about $700,000 in the past four years, Ament said.
The owner of a home with an appraised value of $100,000 in Hancock County pays $77.04 each year to support the levy.