Summit County Children Services got its levy increase.

And there was no doubt about it.

With all 420 county precincts counted by 10:40 p.m., Issue 8, proposing a one-mill levy increase to Children Services, passed with 122,627 yes votes, or slightly more than 60 percent of votes cast, to 81,541 opposed.

The ballot proposal asked voters whether to renew the agency's existing 2.25 mill levy and then increase the levy by another mill.

Children Services and others argued the agency needed the renewal and increase because of a rising demand for services while at the same time revenue was dropping. The agency had not received a levy increase in 30 years.

In particular, Children Services said the opioid epidemic was straining its resources. The agency reported that the number of children in custody was up by 36 percent since 2012.

"We're serving about 10,000 kids a year," Julie Barnes, agency executive director, said. The high number of children in custody is largely because of substance abuse issues, in particular opioids, at their homes, she said.

Some 41 percent of children are placed with other relatives such as grandparents, Barnes said. Those caregivers need a lot of support, she said.

The higher levy will allow the agency to provide better assistance to caregivers, Barnes said.

It also will help Children Services recruit more foster and adoptive homes, she said. There currently are about 150 active foster homes in the county with about 800 children in placement. The agency also will have money for providing more labor-intensive preventive measures for families so children can stay at home.

The county levy provides nearly 60 percent of Children Services' revenue; the agency has an annual budget of about $50 million. The state provides about 7 percent of the agency's funding. The organization also gets money from the federal government and other sources.

Children Services argued that its income has declined by $58 million since 2008 for a number of reasons, including the phasing out of the tangible personal property tax.

The levy will raise $27 million a year, with $12 million being additional revenue. The total 3.25 mills will cost homeowners $99 per $100,000 valuation each year.

 

Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ