2017-04-19 / News

DD Board Superintendent Explains Levy Decision

The Fulton County Board of Developmental Disabilities was faced with questions, some it could not answer, when it was making its decision about a property tax levy.

Currently, the FCBDD collects two, two-mill levies. One is a two-mill levy that is a continuing levy. It never needs to be voted upon again.

The second is a two-mill levy that lasts five years. The levy is due to go before all Fulton County voters again in the Tuesday, May 2, Special Election.

Beth Friess, FCBDD director, said when looking at the levy renewal, three major questions had to be answered.

First: If the levy was simply renewed, would it be enough? The answer was no.

“We needed to sustain what we’re already doing. If we did exactly what we’re doing today, with the money we have available, we would not have been able to do it for the full five years before we would need to renew again,” Friess said.

Then there were two other questions, one that can’t be definitively answered: What will happen to state support for DD boards across the state, and what will happen to Medicaid funding.

Medicaid

Medicaid is important because of Medicaid waivers.

Friess said a waiver means a person does not have to be in an institution to receive services paid for by the federal Medicaid program. That institutionalization requirement is “waived.”

Medicaid pays 60% of the cost of providing a service to a DD board client; the board must pay the other 40%.

Because the local portion is required to get the Medicaid money, the board’s 40% always has the highest funding priority.

State support is determined during the every-other year budgeting process at the state level, “and I think that anybody’s guess (as to what happens with the budget) is as good as anybody else’s,” Friess said.

Knowing that the board could not make the full five years without additional revenue, the decision was made to look at an increase.

Discounts

As FCBDD officials were looking at how property taxes work, they discovered there has been a change in the state law that eliminated a 12.5% reduction in property taxes on levies that were replaced, or were new levies.

The state of Ohio reimburses counties for a portion of that 12.5%.

When a levy is first placed on the ballot, it is charged against a property owner at the full millage rate: in this case, two mills.

As years pass, levy revenue is not allowed to grow with property appreciation.

The millage charged to the property owner is reduced. If a levy is renewed, the millage reduction continues.

If it is replaced, the levy starts over again at the full amount.

Currently, the two-mill levy that needs to be voted on again is being collected at 1.4 mills rather than two.

Friess said, “We looked at doing a replacement, saying we can bring it back up to the two (mills). And that’s where we started.”

But after they looked at the change in state law, the board decided to seek a renewal of the two mills, plus an additional, new six-tenths (.6) of a mill.

“We chose to do the renewal plus the .6, which gets us the same thing as the replacement.”

The 12.5% reduction remains in place on the original two mills, but is not available on the new six-tenths (.6) mill.

“For the taxpayer, it costs $21 on a $100,000 home. If we did the replacement, it would cost $31,” she said.

Expand?

If Medicaid and state subsidy funding is reduced, the board will have revenue available to cope.

If not, then there is money available to grow, funding services for more county residents with developmental delays.

Friess said the board currently serves about 300 people. More than 100 are on the waiting list.

If more revenue is collected than is needed, some can be moved off the waiting list, she said.

If cuts in Medicaid or state funding are severe, Friess said the board will “look at what we can cut, because we don’t want it (the levy money) to not last the five years. We just have to figure out how to make it work.”

Friess said currently, about $6 million in Medicaidfunded services are provided in Fulton County.

“We pay about $2 million of that cost. But we’re pulling $4 million into the economy of Fulton County,” she said.

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