Voters Approve Cuyahoga County HHS Levy Increase

A sign supporting Issue 33, the Cuyahoga County HHS levy.
The additional revenue is slated for mental health treatment, kinship care, expanded universal preschool and other programs. [Gayle S. Putrich / ideastream]

A proposal to increase Cuyahoga County’s Health and Human Services levy got the approval of 70 percent of voters in Tuesday’s mail-in primary, according to preliminary results.

The levy is expected to bring in approximately $35 million in additional revenue by increasing Cuyahoga County taxes by $41.58 per $100,000 of property value. The funds will cover services such as foster care and adoption, said County Executive Armond Budish, as well as rising operating costs at MetroHealth Medical Center and the juvenile court.

 “This levy is the levy that pays for the things that people most in need, need,” Budish said, “and things that everybody needs.”

The county has seen an increase in the number of children needing care from the Division of Children and Family Services in recent years, putting a strain on its budget. Many of those children are coming from families struggling with addiction issues, Budish said.

“We have more kids in our custody than we have in years, and the needs of those children are higher than they’ve been in many years,” he said.

Additional revenue for DCFS is slated for mental health treatment, kinship care, expanded universal preschool and other programs.

Cuyahoga County’s budget is also facing a new complication from the coronavirus pandemic, which has cut dramatically into sales tax. County sales taxes account for more than half of the general fund budget. The financial impact of the pandemic on the county’s finances could amount to as much as $80 million.

Budish has directed all departments to prepare for a 15 percent budget cut in the face of the pandemic, as well as asked all non-union employees to take a 10-day furlough.

“Virtually everything we do is now strained to the limit,” Budish said.

Two other Northeast Ohio counties also had levies to support child services up for renewal this year. In Portage County, the levy was renewed with roughly 79 percent approval in Tuesday’s unofficial tallies. And in Geauga County, 78 percent of voters approved the renewal of a 0.5 mill Child Services levy.

Any ballots postmarked by April 27 will be counted. Additional ballots arriving in the mail after Tuesday could change the results.

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