Q: Why is the Montgomery County Human Services Levy Council so important?
A: More than 50,000 people all across the county are helped with these important and life-changing human services each year. The Human Services Levy Council funds critically needed human services for children at risk of abuse, families working to get back on their feet, vulnerable seniors who need home health care, and developmentally disabled children and adults – and brings home many millions in state and federal funds.
Q: How many levies support Montgomery County Human Services?
A: Montgomery County voters support two Human Services Levies. Rather than asking voters to support a separate levy for each county agency, Montgomery County consolidated our levies beginning in 1984 to create a more cost-effective and accountable approach. The funds from the Human Services Levies are shared among all the agencies, and each agency is required to make a case for the services they offer. The Human Services Levy Council and the County work together to set priorities and identify the most critical services, recognizing that there’s not enough money to do everything. As mentioned, there are two levies that support the council, one that was passed in 2014 (with 64% voter approval) and another that was passed in 2017 (with 75% voter approval)
Q: Are these levies permanent or temporary?
A: Both of these levies are temporary, meaning they expire after a fixed period of time and must be approved by county voters in a public election to continue. Each levy runs for eight years, with one expiring at the midpoint of the other. This process ensures accountability – because Montgomery County has to keep coming back to voters for their approval and consent.
Q: Which agencies get the Human Services Levy money?
A: There are five main agencies that receive the majority of the levy funding: the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities Services; Montgomery County Children Services; Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County, and the Area Agency on Aging. These agencies provide the human services that protect children, public health, and frail elderly – and diagnose and treat developmental disabilities, drug and alcohol dependence, and physical and behavioral healthcare for people with nowhere else to turn. In addition the levy funds a complement of other related community based health and human services programs that support the safety net for vulnerable children, families, and individuals.
Q: How much has the human services budget increased over the years?
A: Despite increased costs and need, the current annual budget for human services is actually about 9% less than it was in 2011. In 2012, the county made cuts to control taxpayer costs in a deep recession, even though it meant reducing programs below the level of real need. Through careful management, regular oversight from the Human Services Levy Council, and a focus on the most-critical needs, we’ve sustained stability in service delivery to those in need while also maintaining a similar reduced ongoing annual budget allocation for the agencies and programs.
Q: Who are the volunteers who make up the Human Service Levy Council? How does that work?
A: The Human Services Levy Council is a group of business leaders and community volunteers that includes representation from the United Way, various municipal leaders, and members of Montgomery County’s faith and business communities. The Human Services Levy Council reviews funding and service needs from the five agencies that receive the human services levy money. The Council asks hard questions about needs, helps set priorities, and makes recommendations about funding levels and levy proposals. Smaller “Community Review Teams” advise the Levy Council. These Review Teams visit agencies to see up close how their work makes a difference for people in our community.
Q: What about state and federal funding for these sorts of programs?
A: State and federal dollars do help pay for many of these services, but the state has cut funding for human services in Montgomery County by millions of dollars, and counties are responsible for providing certain services to vulnerable people – individuals with developmental disabilities, for instance, and children who are abused and neglected – that need additional services and support.
Q: What about the opiate epidemic?
A: With the increased use of heroin and other drugs, it’s more important than ever to the Human Services Levy Council. Sadly, the reality is we likely have not reached a peak of the opiate crisis in Montgomery County – or as a nation. This situation is not something that can be resolved overnight, but we must continue to ensure we have the needed funding to provide immediate care for people experiencing a mental health or drug crisis as well as treatment programs, continued community education, and support for families of those suffering from addiction.