Wood Lane seeks levy support PDF Print E-mail
Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer   
Wednesday, 16 October 2013 10:17
Wood Lane is asking voters to support an operating levy on the November ballot - which, even if it succeeds, would result in a budget cut for the agency.
"This is a reduction," said Wood Lane Superintendent Melanie Stretchbery, explaining that the five-year, 2.95-mill levy would produce less than the amount required for current operations.
"Even with successful passage of this levy, there will be a $1.5 million annual cut. We expect that to come from even greater changes in our health insurance," she said. Other cuts could come from preventative maintenance and capital expenditures programs, and postponing the purchase of vehicles.
Wood Lane's expenses for this year are $29.9 million; while numbers weren't yet available for this year's revenues, last year Wood Lane received $26 million, "and our expenses exceed our revenues, which is why the levy is on the ballot."
The levy would generate about $8.1 million per year, costing a family with a $100,000 home about $8.60 per month.
"This is the first time in Wood Lane history that we have sought a five-year," time-limited levy, said Stretchbery - a decision the board of trustees arrived at, she said, out of respect for the taxpayers and because of the continuing climate of economic uncertainty.
"We'll make our adjustment in the budget with every effort to not have an impact" on services, she said.
"Our goal is to reduce expenditures in non-direct service areas."
Stretchbery said that Wood Lane will have a balance of approximately $17.8 million at the end of the present fiscal year - but about $8.5 million of that is earmarked for funds that the agency is required to have balances in, including a Medicare match fund, a health insurance fund, a benefit separation fund for retiring employees, and a community emergency fund.
While Wood Lane is supported by a series of continuing levies totaling 6.7 mills, the actual collections have been reduced to 4.7 mills. The agency, she said, is experiencing "significant cuts, as everyone else is, in state budget and local property tax collections."
At the same time, the number of people Wood Lane serves has increased dramatically, from 329 in 2000, the date of the last levy request, to 945 today. During that period, staffing increased by a lesser amount, going from 251 to 439 people.
Wood Lane has already sought to reduce its costs in a number of ways, including holding off on filling positions. Two director-level positions and two coordinator positions in the last five years went unfilled; the money saved was put into hiring direct-services staff. Further, employees no longer receive step raises, and hiring wages have not been adjusted since 2005. Wood Lane also worked to reduce employee health insurance costs, including fostering increased use of programs such as federal Medicaid.
"That's been the board's objective overall, to be responsible," said Stretchbery.

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