CHILDREN'S SERVICES LEVY
Resolution -- That the Cincinnatus Association endorse the Hamilton County Children’s Services levy, Issue _, to fund services needed by children suffering abuse or neglect.
The levy funds are used by the Children’s Services Division (CSD) of the County’s Department of Jobs & Family Services (JFS) to support services for some of the County’s most vulnerable children who have experienced mental illness, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect. About 2200 such children were helped in 2015.
The services paid for by the levy are mandated by state or federal law. The state provides no money for such services. The levy leverages a match of some federal funds.
This is a straight renewal of a levy in place during 2011-16 which we endorsed in 2011. It will cost the owner of $100,000 property about $95 per year; since the rate will remain at 2.77 mills, it will not increase taxes. The levy has raised about $40 million per year, but less than $37 million in 2015.
The County’s Tax Levy Review Committee (TLRC) found that the need for these services is great and is increasing due to parental opioid addiction and the trauma that too many children suffer prior to contact with CSD.
CSD has struggled in recent years with high staff turnover resulting in larger workloads. Notwithstanding significant budget and staff cuts in the last decade, an outside expert review of CSD services conducted for the TLRC found that they remain effective and efficient, and the TLRC concluded that JFS has managed its finances quite well.
CSD may in the next five years lose some federal funds and it could be hurt by changes in Medicaid payments for Juvenile Court-mandated treatments. Thus, the County may need to revisit the adequacy of funding for these services before the levy ends.
JFS was forced to operate in a very lean manner in recent years as it awaited conclusion of a federal audit which could have created a liability over $100 million, and it created a large reserve to meet that potential liability. Fortunately, the audit claim was recently settled for $22.5 million. JFS had a levy fund carryover of $123 million at the end of FY2015, but the TLRC concluded that it would be necessary to spend down the remaining surplus over the next five-year levy cycle in order to improve services, meet increased needs and costs, and make up for the possible loss of other revenues.
Programs receiving levy funds include: mental health treatment; domestic violence counseling; substance abuse counseling; parenting classes; intensive family services; in-home services; child care; medical assistance; foster care and adoption; kinship care; and transportation. Organizations receiving funds include: Juvenile Court; the Mental Health Board; and private human service agencies that help children, such as Lighthouse Youth Services, Beech Acres Parenting Center, and Talbert House.
Arguments for Endorsement:
· The services are mandated and needed. They cannot be funded with County general revenue funds. Children will suffer great harm if the levy fails.
· The services are delivered in a cost-efficient yet effective manner.
· Because it is a simple renewal levy, there will be no increase in taxes paid by property owners.
· Without the levy, federal matching funds will be lost, further damaging services.
Arguments Against Endorsement:
- Some argue that the County has cut staff and suffered staff retention problems to the extent that services have been harmed and more money is needed.
- Others argue that local residents are heavily burdened by high property taxes; this levy accumulated a large surplus over the last five-year cycle, proving that it could be reduced without affecting the needed level of service.
We are not aware of any organized opposition to this tax levy.
Recommendation: The Excellence in Government Panel and Executive Committee recommend that the Cincinnatus Association endorse Issue _.
Information for Cincinnatus Membership on the
Cincinnati Public School/Pre-School Promise Tax Levy
Overview of the levy
On November 8, 2016 voters in the Cincinnati Public School District will be voting on a 5 year 7.93 mill property tax levy. The levy will provide a total of $48 million of which $15 million will be for the expansion of quality preschool through CPS and community providers. The $33 million for CPS k-12 will be used for the approximately 12% increase in enrollment, technology, intense focus on the 16 poorest performing schools and for career development. The levy will cost tax payers $277 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. A local organization, COAST, has announced its opposition to the levy.
Both the Cincinnatus Association Education Panel and the Executive Committee have recommended endorsement of the levy. At the September 13th general membership meeting presentations in support and in opposition to the levy will be made. The membership will vote on its endorsement at that meeting.
Information in support of the levy
· Cincinnati Public Schools has had no new money for 8 years. The district needs additional funds for:
o An 11-12% increase in enrollment with no additional funds to support the increase
o Inflation: Salaries and other costs have increased
o Technology: The district is lacking in the needed technology for students in today’s classroom
o Focus on 16 poorest performing schools: An intense focus is planned to substantially improve performance
· School District is showing real progress
o Highest performing urban district in state
o Highest performing high school and elementary school in state
o Graduation rate increasing
o Higher ACT Scores
o Growth in Advanced Placement courses
o Targeted low performing schools are improving significantly
· District has lost nearly $70 million in state funding over the past several years
· Accountability of District finances found to be very sound by Efficiency Review Committee made up of leading business and foundation executives
· Pre-School will be universal throughout the Cincinnati Public School District
o Rand Corporation study shows $4 return for every $1 spent on quality pre-school
o Study further shows many examples in other cities of quality pre-school providing substantial improvements in school readiness for children
o Study also shows that quality preschool results in lower rates of special education use, reduced grade repetition and higher graduation rates
o Focus will be 3 & 4 year old children below 200% of poverty
o Currently over 40% of students in district are not prepared for kindergarten
o Will be universal pre-school including independent providers as well as Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS)
o There will be a ”trusted entity”(an existing large non-profit) selected to oversee funds provided to community providers other than CPS
o All providers will be 3 star (state quality rating) rated or higher
· Levy has broad support (Cincinnati Business Committee, Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, AMOS, many other community organizations)
Information in opposition to the levy
· Local organization, COAST, announced opposition based on two factors: 1) Levy too high and 2) Use of the money is vague. So far no explanation of either.
· Other possible reasons to oppose and information in response:
o Property taxes already too high, they need to fund schools another way. Response: Ohio Supreme Court has found current method of school financing is unconstitutional 3 times; state legislature has done nothing to change from dependence on property taxes. Also, state funds for public education have been reduced over past several years.
o Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) are not performing well. Response: CPS is the highest performing urban public school system in state and has shown consistent improvement.
o 7.93 mills is too much, should get by with less: Response: Audit done by business community shows CPS finances are used efficiently and it will have large deficit if it doesn’t get more funds.
o Studies have shown that Head Start pre-school gains don’t last. Response: In CPS with high quality preschool. Children prepared for kindergarten has risen from 43% to nearly 60% and has continued on to improvement in 3rd grade reading scores.