The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 23, 2012

Children Services seeks renewal of levy

Staff Writer

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —  The Ashtabula County Children Services Board is seeking renewal of the levy that provides virtually all of the agency’s local funding.

The 1.75-mill levy provides about 43 percent of the agency’s overall budget, said Tania Burnett, executive director. About 20 percent of the agency’s money comes from the state and 35 percent from federal sources. But without the matching local dollars that the levy provides, some of the other funding would not be available.

The agency’s board decided to stick with a straight renewal of the existing levy rather than go for an increase or new levy. “We look at how these have done across the state and they didn’t pass,” she said. “We wanted to be conservative and work with the budget we have.”

It’s a tight one as a result of increased demand for services during a time of level funding. Criminal activity, including meth production and prescription drug abuse, has a big impact on children, who then end up under the care of Children Services. The agency is managing 162 children who are in some type of court-ordered protective situation.

“That’s a bigger number than we are used to dealing with,” Burnett said. “We’re being asked to do more with less.”

The agency placed 130 children in January, and Burnett said placement numbers on the whole are up, again because of the economy and crime-related situations.

The money generated by the levy is used as local match for other funding sources and operational costs. Programs provided through that operational funding include parenting classes, prevention programs and assisting families with various needs related to protection of the children.

The renewal question asks for a five-year extension of the levy. Voters historically have supported the levy since it first went on the ballot in 1982.

“We’re hoping that continues,” Burnett said. “We’re very appreciative of all the support we’ve had over the years.”