A levy supporting Scioto County Children’s Services passed Tuesday, replacing a former levy with a new one that doubled the budget for the agency.
The ballot read:
“A replacement of 1 mill of an existing levy and an increase of 2 mills to constitute a tax for the benefit of Scioto County Children Services for the purpose of the support of the children services and for the care and placement of abused, neglected and dependent children in Scioto County, Ohio at a rate not exceeding 3 mills for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to $0.30 for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for 10 years, commencing in 2022, first due in calendar year 2023.”
The levy will play out differently for people, depending on the assessed value of their home.
For a home with an auditor appraisal of $50,000, at an assessment rate of 35 percent, the current gross tax is $16.04 at .92 mill. That would increase to $36.46 at 2.1 mill.
For a home with an auditor appraisal of $100,000, at an assessment rate of 35 percent, the current gross tax is $32.09 at .92 mill. That would increase to $72.91 at 2.1 mill.
For a home with an auditor appraisal of $150,000, at an assessment rate of 35 percent, the current gross tax is $48.13 at .92 mill. That would increase to $109.37 at 2.1 mill.
For a home with an auditor appraisal of $200,000, at an assessment rate of 35 percent, the current gross tax is $64.18 at .92 mill. That would increase to $145.82 at 2.1 mill
According to the group advocating for passage, Committee for the Kids, the previous levy had Children’s Services operating budget at $3.2 million, but placement costs for the year are $5.8 million. The levy will now fully cover the placement costs of 363 children in county care.
The agency claimed that caseworkers were unable to give the appropriate attention to each situation, due to the overwhelming volume of cases, and the lack of funding was jeopardizing the safety of children. The group explained that staffing will need to be 3-4 times what it is to handle the children in their protective custody.
Committee members included Scottie Powell, Cathy Coleman, Bryan Davis, Kevin Johnson, Pat Ciraso, Donna Cunningham, Gary Jenkins, Heidi Riepenhoff, Tammy Moore Morton, Ryan Scheisser, and Audrey Schiesser.
“Scioto County is experiencing unprecedented numbers in children being placed in protective custody. This is due to children living in unacceptable conditions, mainly due to the incompetence of adults. Our current funding is grossly inadequate,” Commissioner Bryan Davis said to the Times prior to the vote. “Our current levy is sufficient for around 115-120 kids. We have over 350 in custody currently. Our costs to house children last year exceeded $5 million.”
Davis explained that steps have been made to improve on the agency, but funding is still a necessary burden.
“We have taken steps to streamline CPS by combining the two agencies (JFS and CPS), consolidating operations into 1 building, reducing overhead costs, and strengthened our legal process in order to get children a permanent custody position faster,” Davis said. “We are fully supporting our Prosecutors office in this endeavor. Many processes are being streamlined and communication improved. But even with these changes, it’s not enough.”
Commissioner Scottie Powell, who was recently elected into the appointed seat he took in 2021, after the passing of late Commissioner Mike Crabtree, said that this was a win for local kids.
“First of all, we have to thank the citizens of Scioto County that this issue has passed,” Powell said. “People have been, rightfully so, following this issue very closely, because we are dealing with our most at-risk population. I think we did a good job at educating the public on how serious the issue is—we have had the opioid epidemic and now children in our care. This shows that our citizens care that the children are taken care of.”
Powell stood by the importance of the funding, saying that a situation without passage would cut programming across the board.
“This also frees us up to continue to work on all of the other projects we’ve been focusing on. Should this have failed, we would have had to find several million dollars from the general fund and most of the things people enjoy seeing us do would have had to come to a halt,” Powell said. “I’m thankful. It isn’t something we’re going to squander. It is something we’re going to continue to work on. We did combine the services with Jobs and Family Services and there are things that need fixed from an operational standpoint, but knowing the funding is in place is instrumental in knowing we can care for the kids and families in the program.”