HCJFS seeks replacement levy


The Highland County Board of Commissioners approved the replacement of a tax levy for Children Services from Highland County Jobs and Family Services (HCJFS) for the upcoming November election at its weekly Wednesday morning meeting.

Jeremy Ratcliff, director of HCJFS, said that the replacement for the previous levy, originally voted for and approved in 2013, would be a $1 million levy.

The projected total revenue from the levy would reportedly be $982,224. However, the document also stated that, with the 10 percent delinquency, the revenue would be around $883,163.

Alex Butler, Highland County auditor, said that the latter number would be the more likely number that would be collected with the new levy.

Previously, Ratcliff said, the property tax cost the owner of a $100,000 property $23.68 per year. If the replacement levy passes it will cost the same person $35 per year.

He said HCJFS has been studying this issue for “months” on whether to do a replacement or a renewal levy. He said that the organization created a graph showing the increase over the last 10 years of children in their care at any point in time. He said the key years to look at in terms of the increases are 2013 and 2018.

Ratcliff said there were 253 children in the organization’s care in 2013, when the previous levy was approved. He said that increased to 297 children in their care in 2018, when the levy was renewed. However, following that year, Ratcliff said the number of individuals in their care shot up, going from the 297 in 2018 to 398 in 2019, 490 in 2020, 467 in 2021 and 425 in 2022.

“We’ve been as creative as we possibly can while still keeping our kids safe, to do everything we possibly can to not bring them into foster care, utilizing kinship placements, safety plans, et cetera,” Ratcliff said. “And so we’ve seen a little bit of a dip from our 2021 numbers. However, even at 425, that doesn’t approach 253 in 2013 or 297 in 2018, so the costs continue to rise. We’ve really struggled with this decision to be perfectly honest with you. I think anybody that knows me would know that I’m a pretty conservative fiscal person and I understand a voter’s perspective, but we’re, I think, asking for what we need.”

Ratcliff said he’s already had people asking him if the organization’s costs are $4 million, then why didn’t they ask for more? He said that’s because the money they’re asking for is the “bare minimum” he thinks they need to operate.

“I don’t think you can say anything more than it’s a tragedy that we have seen the kind of increases in the work and your workload, your caseload, that we’ve seen,” commissioner Dave Danielssaid. “But obviously, we need to make some provision to care for the children that come before you.”

In other news, Daniels said that a member of the Highland County community, Ken Davis of the Highland/Leesburg area, was going to be inducted into the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame at the Ohio State Fair.

“It’s a little more than kind of a big deal,” he said. “It is a big deal. So, congratulations to Ken and his family.”

Commissioner Terry Britton said that the board planned to try and make the trip to support Davis for his induction.

Britton also noted that Bob Hodson, longtime member of the Highland County community, passed away over the weekend. He said that Hodson was “a super guy, done a lot for Highland County over the years and, you know, he will be missed tremendously. So, just our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

The board of commissioners also approved multiple authorizations to execute, those being a Department General Partnership Agreement from the village of Leesburg for economic development and a Section 125 Premium Only Plan from Aug. 1, 2023, to July 31, 2024.

Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.

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