Children’s Services Levy: Process Starts Soon for November Ballot

Weir2010 2016 is a big year for our agency. I am already receiving requests for information about the Children’s Services Levy that must be renewed by voters in November.

The levy supports the system of care established to protect our county’s children. This includes entities from our agency, to other government organizations, such as Hamilton County’s Juvenile Court, Prosecutor’s Office and Mental Health Board, to private social service agencies that help children, such as Lighthouse Youth Services, Beech Acres Parenting Center and Talbert House.

Last year, our agency alone helped more than 16,000 abused and neglected children.

Let me take this opportunity to provide some education about the process of placing the levy on the November ballot and how the money from the levy is used. And since the process will begin soon, this information is timely and allows you to have a voice in the process.

Beginning next month and through May, our agency, and the money we spend protecting this county’s children, will be reviewed by an independent, outside consultant. That consultant will make a recommendation to the county’s Tax Levy Review Committee on the need for the money and how it is being spent.

In June, the Tax Levy Review Committee will hold public meetings. The committee then will make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners.

In July, Hamilton County commissioners will hold their own public meetings.

Finally, in August, commissioners will vote on whether to put the levy on the ballot and at what tax rate. The tax rate determines how much the levy generates for use in protecting county children.

Here are some facts about the levy:

  • It is used to provide services mandated by our federal and state governments. If the levy did not exist, we would still have to provide those services. But, it might look much different than the system today.
  • The current tax rate – 2.77 mills – generated about $40 million last year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $50.
  • The tax rate has not changed in 20 years. In fact, the amount generated by the levy has decreased since 2007, when it generated $43 million.
  • The levy accounts for about two-thirds of the money the agency annually spends to protect children, $120 million. The $40 million raised from the levy is used to bring in at least an additional $40 million in matching state and federal funds.

JFS uses the money to pay for services such as

  • Mental health treatment
  • Domestic violence counseling
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Parenting classes
  • Intensive family services
  • In-home services
  • Child care
  • Medical aid
  • Food assistance
  • Foster care and adoption
  • Kinship care
  • Transportation

As we begin the discussion of the 2016 Children’s Services Levy, I hope you find this information helpful. I am available if you have further questions.

One of the costliest services we provide is temporary placement of children. This can run, depending on the needs of the child, anywhere from about $18,000 a year in basic foster care to more than $210,000 a year in a residential treatment center.

by Jane Prendergast

Filed Under: From the Director

Tagged: adoption, child abuse, Children's Services, children's services levy, foster care, hamilton county children's services levy, hamilton county department of job and family services, hamilton county job and family services, moira weir, neglect