By JIM MAURER
Representatives of the Hancock County Department of Job and Family Services asked the county commissioners Thursday for the rest of the agency’s annual appropriation for child protective services, about $450,000, because of increased expenses.
The agency budgeted about $1.715 million for child protective services for the year. The commissioners’ total share was set at $974,000, and the commissioners have already appropriated $525,000 this year.
Diana Hoover, Job and Family Services director, and Janet Beall, chief financial officer of the department, discussed the agency’s financial situation Thursday in the aftermath of a levy defeat earlier this month.
On May 8, Findlay and Hancock County voters defeated a proposed 1.2-mill, 10-year levy that would have generated about $2.3 million annually for elderly protection, child protection and child care. The levy was defeated by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin.
While additional funding was rejected, the agency is facing increased demand for its services.
Hoover said the need for child care services is greater this year. For instance, 57 complaints have been filed in juvenile court so far this year, compared to 54 in all of 2017. There have been 18 adoptions this year, compared to 10 all of last year.
“(We have) spent a great deal of time looking at the budget, looking for other resources we could bring into the agency to help pay for (child) placements, because I know that it’s going to be a big burden for the county,” Hoover said. “We have 56 children in care and our average cost per child is $30,325 annually. So I am here today to request about $450,000 additional to pay for the local share of placements for 2018.”
Commissioner President Brian Robertson said he wants to check with the county prosecutor’s office to determine whether the funding is state-mandated. If the commissioners are required to make the early allocation to Job and Family Services, it will impact other non-mandated allocations, Robertson said.
The county contributes roughly $134,000 a year to regional planning, “so if we have to come up with $450,000 right now, we don’t fund regional planning,” Robertson said. “You can go right down the list, soil and water, economic development, public defender’s office, so those are tough realities.
“I don’t have any problem having the discussions, but that has to be part of this dialogue today,” Robertson said. “I think we have to look at cost, we have to look at revenue, we have to understand the perspective of our shareholders in the community and what the taxpayers are saying.”
Hoover said after the levy defeat, she thought about where the “disconnect” was with voters.
“One of the things I heard was people thought it should be a sales tax and not a property tax,” she said.
Commissioner Mark Gazarek said property taxes can be earmarked for specific purposes like child protective services, but that is not the case with sales tax revenue.
Hoover said the United Way of Hancock County has indicated it would be “willing to do community conversations. If we wanted to go down that road, to see what if anything the community would support as far as more funding coming into child welfare and adult protective services.”
“I think it would be a good idea to get somebody involved to get public feedback on why the levy was defeated,” Gazarek said.
“I think if United Way was going to be able to facilitate anything like that, it would be time well spent,” Commissioner Tim Bechtol said. “We got letters to the editor (in The Courier) with people saying they don’t want to pick up other people’s messes. How widespread is that perception?”
Hoover said Job and Family Services is not permitted to move federal and state funds designated for other services, such as workforce or child support programs, to cover needs in child protective services.
Job and Family Services has asked the state to review its fiscal situation to see if there is “any stone we did not turn over and look under, but other than that, we do not have any more funds out of our agency which we can (utilize). Even if we did a staff reduction, that would not solve the problem because we don’t pay staff out of the same fund as child placements,” Hoover said.
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