Summit County Children Services last went to voters with a levy request in 2012 when the agency won approval of a renewal measure. The campaign saw no mention of an opioid crisis. That is how much the landscape has changed. Now the crisis is center stage, the fallout affecting many children, its “silent victims,” as advocates note, thus putting a strain on agencies with the task of protecting abused and neglected children.

In that context, Children Services is asking county voters to approve another renewal of its 2.25-mill levy — plus an additional 1 mill, a tax increase of $35 per year, or roughly $3 per month, for a house valued at $100,000. The need is clear. Demand for services has increased as revenues have slipped.

We recommend a vote for Issue 8 on Nov. 6. Click here for more Beacon Journal/Ohio.com endorsements. 

How much has demand climbed? The agency reports 200 more children in its custody today than six years ago. That translates to an increase of 36 percent. Children have been entering custody more quickly than they have been exiting, due largely to the complications of the opioid crisis, parents, for instance, needing time to see their way through drug treatment.

Children Services has the responsibility, among other things, to assess, find a safe place (a grandparent, relative or foster home) and then maintain involvement to ensure the safety and well-being of the children. This is difficult yet necessary work, reflecting the community’s commitment to those who are most vulnerable.

It follows: Add dramatically to the number of children, and the expense mounts.

In that way, the job has become even harder because of declining resources. The renewal levy generates fewer dollars today than a decade ago. The gap is about $4 million a year, a significant sum for an agency with an annual budget of $51 million. The agency has faced the end of the tangible personal property tax. The decline in revenue also stems from the timing of the most recent renewal levy, approval coming when property values were lower in the wake of the recession.

For its part, the state increased funding for children services agencies in the current budget. Unfortunately, the additional money yielded just $250,000 for Summit County last year. It did not cover the decline in the state child protection allocation from 2008 to 2016, the county seeing a drop of as much as $1 million annually.

It matters, too, that Ohio ranks at the bottom among states in support for child protection services. The state could double funding, and it still would trail all others.

As a result, support is more of a local responsibility, levy dollars accounting for 58 percent of total revenue for Summit County Children Services. Here, the agency has done its part, achieving efficiencies, improving its labor relations and managing as well as it can with less. It sees this levy request carrying its work through 2031, if things go as planned. For now, the agency requires additional resources as it responds to children in need, their numbers having grown in the opioid crisis. Vote for Issue 8.