We are very disappointed that we fell short of the votes needed to pass this levy, but want to express to the individuals and families with developmental disabilities that this levy loss does not mean our community doesn’t support you. 2020 has been more than just a challenging year for all of us.
We know the work done every day by the county board and all the residential service providers we financially support is important, even more so during a pandemic, and we know these services are truly valued by our community.
With the loss of two 5-year levies nearly 20 years ago, we don’t have renewable levies and must ask for an additional levy. That sets us apart from other counties. Our responsibility to all citizens is to ensure that each person is informed so they can understand the necessity of local tax dollars and the special value those tax dollars mean to people’s lives in our county.
These funds are necessary to address real needs, not optional programs or services. People who live in Morrow County need similar supports as provided by other counties. Ohio’s developmental disabilities system is based on local authority which ultimately means each voter holds a lot of power in determining what level of support our county offers. This system can be preferred to one with a lot of state or federal control, but it can also create disparities across county lines.
Without sufficient local tax revenue, we cannot bring back the federal Medicaid waiver funding to Morrow County that averages around 60 percent of the cost and allows us to provide vital supports to residents who are in need of crucial services.
Since the failure of those two tax levies, we have been operating with severely reduced local funding, the Morrow County Board continues to face challenges and cannot offer supports to everyone in need. We developed a very lean operation model many years ago which has been maintained to allow the greatest amount of funding to be directed to those with the most critical needs.
The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities conducted a thorough review of our operations nearly 10 years ago when we sought state assistance and we received no recommendations that could improve our sustainability. We have reached the limit of our funding and without a new levy, we will continue to face difficult choices of who gets services and who must face further delays.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the challenge of stretching our very limited resources to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of community members with developmental disabilities and to provide supports to them, whether at Whetstone Industries or in the community.
It is important to understand that County Boards must forecast and plan when additional funds are needed. We knew 10 years ago we would need these funds, even with the passage of the increase in levy funding in 2014, because we had lost the millage from those 2 levies, which left us well below the average for similar counties.
The aging population continues to be a great concern as well as the families who need Early Intervention services and the families who have children in school planning for their adult lives. Each person with developmental disabilities, regardless of where they are in their lifespan, can benefit from desperately needed supports to help them have similar opportunities for a meaningful life.
Our Board and leadership staff will evaluate the levy results in conjunction with our forecast and determine our next steps and we not only welcome input from our community, we truly need it. We want everyone to know we will strengthen our efforts but we really need the strength of our community to help us.
Communication is vital so people understand the true need, how the county board operates and how it is funded. We need everyone’s help to share the facts so no question goes unanswered. Please join us as we strive to bring the same opportunities to Morrow County that are available in other counties that have sufficient local funding.
It is with great sincerity that we share our gratitude to those who continue to support people with developmental disabilities and to everyone who made their voice heard in this election during these very challenging times.
Folesong is Superintendent, Morrow County Board of DD.