LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ohio (WOWK) – The votes are in and counted, but some people in Lawrence County are not satisfied with the outcome of one of the ballot items.
Lawrence County Developmental Disabilities was requesting an additional 2.5 mill levy on the November ballot, so it could continue and expand services in the county.
Tim Nunnery, Communications and Resource Development Director for Lawrence County DD, told 13 News last month that the board was expecting a $900,000 shortfall in funding by the year 2020 due to the increased cost of doing business. Currently, LCDD has about $8 million in annual expenses and $6 million in annual revenue.
Local funding accounts for about 38 percent of LCDD’s budget, and they currently receive $2,345,671 from a 2.5 mill levy that is already in place. But after all the votes were counted last week (November 5th), the funding levy was defeated by 354 votes, nearly 14,000 people voted on it.
”We were all totally shocked. We were pretty optimistic and confident in the feedback that we had gotten and received from people,” said Nunnery.
Now due to the outcome, Lawrence County Developmental Disabilities is making some cuts to balance their budget. Nunnery said they recently laid off several staff members including two educators in the school program, a specialist in the early intervention program, a secretarial position in the Service and Support program, custodial staff, a service and support administrator, a fiscal specialist and eliminate contracted receptionist services.
He added that those duties will need to be absorbed by other staff members, and the extra workload could impact the quality of services they offer.
Nunnery also said extracurricular activities like field trips will have to be cut, and enrollment at Open Door School, a school that provides special education to students from all districts in Lawrence County, is expected to freeze enrollment.
Along with a freeze at Open Door School, LCDD will have to put a freeze on transportation services, in-home care, enrollment in day facilities, and people who are on a waiting list to receive services.
”It’s been very tough. We have had to tighten our budget. We had to lay off several employees right before the holiday season,” said Nunnery.
To address the issue, a community organization called M.O.M, Moms on a Mission, is circulating petitions in the Lawrence County area this weekend and Monday to get the initiative put back on the ballot this Spring for a vote.
”I have had great results on the petitions. We have people all through the county. We have people at all the local schools, all the local sporting events. There are people at churches and at grocery stores,” said Tina Erwin, M.O.M organizer.
Erwin, whose son J.C. has Down Syndrome, said LCDD has been a great help to her and other families in the area.
LCDD has been serving the area for about 60 years, and they offer a wide array of services from early childhood intervention to services and support for adults.
”We were fortunate to get a waiver from them a few years back, and that helps pay for J.C.’s therapy and home health aid, so I am able to go to work,” said Erwin.
In just a few days, the group that started on Facebook has accumulated more than 3,400 followers. Sandra Staton, who signed the petition at Chesapeake Elementary on Saturday, said she thinks the reason the levy failed was because of a lack of public awareness about the issue and confusion on the ballot.
”It [the ballot] was very confusing. The DD [Developmental Disabilities], I think we need that spelled out on the ballot. I think the word disability would have stood out,” said Staton.
The group hopes to get at least 500 signatures, so the issue can be voted on again in March, with a better outcome.
Nunnery said If the levy passes on its next run, LCDD officials will complete a budget re-vision to begin reinstating employees and services, but if the levy fails again, further cuts would need to be made to the agency.