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Disability levy back on ballot

Clark County agency suffered its first levy loss in November.

Developmental Disabilities of Clark County is back on the November ballot this fall with an 8-year, 1.75-mill levy, and the superintendent predicts program cuts for individuals with disabilities if it’s not approved.

The same request failed last November, the first time in the agency’s history a ballot issue failed. Clark County commissioners approved the addition of the issue to the ballot this week.

The proposed levy will help the board maintain basic services required by increases to the disabled population in Clark County. It will cost the owner of a $100,000 house approximately $61.25 per year, or $5.10 per month.

The board currently serves 1,150 disabled individuals. The board also supports 1,000 private sector jobs in Clark County through federal dollars.

Superintendent Jennifer Rousculp said the organization made administrative cuts earlier this year, but the loss of more funds would mean cutting programs.

“We’re down to where we wouldn’t be able to serve the number of folks we’re serving right now,” Rousculp said. “It’s dire this time.”

The agency received about $1.5 million less in state aid over the last few years, which also affects its ability to receive federal dollars. Over the next two years, they’re expected to lose approximately $466,000 in state funding for the F.F. Mueller Residential Center, which provides care for individuals with disabilities on campus.

The agency had projected a $4.3 million shortfall in 2014 without the additional funds. The board’s budget is expected to be $21.7 million next year.

Last year, the issue lost by less than one percent of the vote. Rousculp said ballot language has been changed to be “more indicative” of the organization’s duties.

“We’re back on because we didn’t pass,” Rousculp said.

The disabled population continues to grow in Clark County. The agency increased from 850 clients in 2003 to 1,150 residents now. Physicians are making referrals for children with disabilities at a younger age, and disabled individuals are living longer and needing more medical care as they age.

This year, the organization did not give wage increases to employees, reduced its capital projects to only those related to health and safety and froze enrollment at the QUEST Adult Services facility. The board will also continue to downsize the Mueller Center.

The waiting list continues to grow, Rousculp said. The list is about 1,000 people, which includes disabled children who will need services at places like QUEST or TAC Industries after completing school many years down the road.

“If we don’t have additional funds, there won’t be funds for that,” Rousculp said.

The Mental Health and Recovery Board of Clark, Greene and Madison counties will also place a 1.65-mill renewal levy on the November ballot, which would cost the owner of a $100,000 home approximately $57.44 per year. It won’t raise taxes because it’s a renewal levy. The 10-year levy will generate about $3.7 million annually and fund prevention and treatment services such as counseling, medication and case management for people with disabilities.

Rousculp said she doesn’t expect either levy to have an effect on the others’ ability to pass with voters.

“I think our job is to educate the community on the differences between the two, as well as the need for both,” Rousculp said. “Both are important. We have some crossover on the folks we serve, but the majority are very different.”

The board, formerly known at Clark County MRDD, had previously passed every levy it had placed on the ballot since it was created in 1967. Last year, the levy fared well in Springfield, winning 30 of the 38 precincts. However, it struggled in the county, losing in 51 precincts and passing in 11.

The issue will also be near the top of the ballot this fall. Last November, 3,200 people left the issue blank on their ballots, where it was located at the bottom.

Karen Humphrey, a Facebook user who responded to an inquiry on Wednesday, said “it’s the older residents who have owned their homes for many years” who pay for these issues in the long run.

Another Facebook user, Cindee Johnson, told the News-Sun the services are “vital to the quality of life for persons with developmental disabilities.”

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