A renewal levy for costs associated with children’s services in Highland County will be placed on the ballot in November, county commissioners decided Wednesday.
Highland County Job and Family Services Director Katie Adams told Highland County Commissioners at their weekly meeting that despite a 22-percent decrease in the county’s child placement costs over the past three years, children in the foster system are still costing the county $1.8 million per year. But, she said, she does not anticipate that the children’s services department will require funding additional to the revenue generated by the current levy in the immediate future.
Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley told The Times-Gazette after the meeting that the levy is .9 mills, which costs taxpayers roughly $22.50 per year for each $100,000 property valuation.
Fawley said the levy brings in about $550,000 per year, but that fluctuates from year to year.
In a presentation to the commissioners, Adams said it would be expected that placement costs would increase or decrease based on the number of children in custody, but often, that’s not the case. In fact, multiple children may enter custody and be placed in agency-licensed foster homes or with kin, while others may be discharged from custody and higher cost placements, she said.
Adams added that children who have been placed in agency-licensed foster homes or with family may be discharged home, but one child with mental or behavioral health needs may require a more intensive supervision model. An increase in such children in the agency’s custody leads to increased costs, Adams said, sometimes up to several hundred dollars per day.
Adams said the average cost of placing children in Highland County licensed foster homes is $27 per day.
Adams also updated commissioners on grant-funded programming at JFS.
Highland County Commissioners Gary Abernathy, Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton unanimously approved placing the renewal levy on the ballot in the November General Election.
All three lauded Adams for her work at Job and Family Services.
In other business Wednesday, the commissioners approved a tentative contract between the county and the Fraternal Order of Police, the union which represents the Highland County Sheriff’s Office, following months of negotiations.
The commissioners voted to approve the tentative contract after discussion in executive session with Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera and union representative Bob Cross.
Abernathy said the contract, which adds a number of step raises, will increase the total cost to the county by between 2 and 2.25 percent, and be retroactive to January.
Barrera told The Times-Gazette after the meeting that he has not yet signed the contract.
“There are some things I agree with, some things I don’t agree with,” he said.
The sheriff said he will decide whether or not to sign it when he reads the final draft, which Cross said will likely be complete and ready for full approval within seven to 10 days.
As previously reported, Barrera’s signature does not have to be on the contract in order for it to be executed.
Also Wednesday, the commissioners heard from Carl Lamping, a Clermont County building official, about the Clermont building department possibly adminstering building departments in Highland County.
Lamping and Greenfield City Manager Todd Wilkin discussed the matter with commissioners, and Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie chimed in.
Wilkin said the Village of Greenfield is losing its building department, administered by the Ross County Building Department, in September of this year due to changes in Ross County’s work load.
Wilkin said he approached Clermont County about taking over with a new contract, but Lamping said it doesn’t make sense for his building to department to only administer one community’s building department in Highland County. So, he said he is gauging interest in contracting with other Highland County villages.
Abernathy said he is interested in continuing the discussion, and will likely bring it up at a Lynchburg Village Council meeting this week. Duncan said the commissioners will reach out to villages to measure their interest.
The board also heard from Virginia Purdy, Sue Smith and Sharon Hughes of the Highland County Women’s Hall of Fame about this year’s inductees, Rosemary Ryan, Luise Curtis and Nancy Baldwin.
The women will be inducted into the hall of fame on Tuesday, Aug. 14 in the atrium of Southern State Community College in Hillsboro, according to Purdy. The event begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are $16, and are available at The Times-Gazette.
In other matters, Highland County resident Dave Garner told commissioners he wants the county to repair damage to his motorcycle, which he said it sustained in a crash caused by mud left in the roadway by county construction in the Sinking Spring area. Garner said he doesn’t want to file a civil suit against the county, but he wants his motorcycle repaired, better cleanup of construction sites and clearer markings indicating there is construction in the area. Duncan said the commissioners will speak with the county engineer on the matter.
The commissioners also re-appointed County Engineer Dean Otworth to serve on the District 15 Public Works Integrating Committee for a term of three years beginning in October, and approved contracts and routine financial resolutions.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.