The Washington County Children Services levy is the only county-wide levy on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The 10-year, 1.46-mill levy would raise nearly $1.6 million dollars annually for Children Services. Though this will be the first time the agency has ever attempted to pass a levy, around half of Ohio's 88 counties have already passed similar levies to help fund their Children Services programs, including neighboring Athens County, said WCCS Supervisor Alice Stewart.
In 2011, Children Services received 1,661 referrals involving 2,454 children. It is a number that the levy committee is helping voters visualize by placing 1,661 pinwheels in front of two locations -the Armory on Front Street and Ewing School. But recent funding cuts have crippled the staff and programs that help these children, said Ginny McVey, chairwoman of the levy committee.
"We are getting in dire straights. We've lost a million dollars in the last five years in funding," said McVey.
In the past, federal, state and county funding have helped fuel the organization. However, a reverse trickle down effect has taken its toll on WCCS, said McVey.
"The feds cut the state, the states cut the counties and the counties have had to cut the agencies unfortunately," she said of the funding problems.
One of the main programs the levy could restore is the School Outreach and Prevention Program, or SOPP, which placed qualified prevention specialists in each school district. The federally funded program was abolished in 2009, said McVey.
The goal of SOPP was to watch for early warning signs of abuse or neglect and to educate families in hopes of stopping problems before they even began.
The program's results were annually evaluated by an outside organization. A pre-test and a post-test was given to teachers, parents, and children in the program which measured set criteria, and Washington County always received positive ratings, said Stewart.
"Teachers indicated students in the program are better able to stay on task. Families indicated an increase in family stability and a decrease in stressful events. And children in the program indicated improvements in social interactions with peers, a decrease in anxious behavior, and an increase in the ability to follow rules," summed up Stewart.
In addition to cutting SOPP, Children Services has been forced to cut staff positions and have not been able to give foster parents a raise since 1994, said Stewart.
"We have such a great group of foster parents, maybe 27 or 28 people who will take children in anytime, day or night," said McVey.
The goal is to bring their compensation from $20 a day to $28 a day, said Stewart.
Children Services also works with parents or caretakers to make them suitable for reunification with their children, said McVey.
"They are trying to get them additional help so they can learn how to parent, take care of children, keep their home clean," she explained.
The levy would cost Washington County the owner of a home assessed at $100,000, approximately $45 a year, or about $3.75 a month.
About the levy
Washington County Children Services has a 10-year, 1.46-mill levy on the ballot which would generate $1,599,337.28 annually.
It would cost the owner of a home appraised at $100,000 $44.71 a year.
Money raised through the tax levy would be used for operational costs and for the reinstatement of the School Outreach and Prevention Program (SOPP), a federally funded program that was abolished in July 2009.
The WCCS levy committee has published a video with information about the levy and the services it would help fund, which can be seen at the committee's Facebook or YouTube page: www.facebook.com/childrenservices and www.youtube.com/user/FriendsofWCCS