Thursday, February 20, 2003

Clermont MRDD may face review

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BATAVIA - Clermont County officials are working on an agreement with state officials for a performance audit of the county's Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

MRDD Board President Wanda Downey said her agency welcomes the possible audit and hopes it would alert residents to the needs of the board and inform them of the vital services it provides.

Clermont MRDD serves about 1,300 people with mental or developmental handicaps. Among its programs are job training, education and teaching relatives how to cope with special needs.

Many of its programs have grown in recent years, with some doubling in size.

"I hope the public finds out just what our financial situation is and that we are trying to do things in the proper way," Downey said. "We may not be doing them quite as efficiently, but any suggestions - a fresh look at this - can possibly help us. It can't hurt us."

Officials from the office of state Auditor Betty Montgomery met with Clermont County commissioners earlier this month to discuss the specifics of a potential audit.

The review could begin in March and be completed by the summer, officials said.

In addition, Downey said MRDD could petition voters once again for help with the agency's finances. Any possible levy increase would be placed on the November ballot, she said. Clermont County commissioners must first approve placing the levy on the ballot.

Clermont County voters have rejected MRDD's two previous levy requests.

In 2001, voters defeated a 1.88-mill levy that would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home $84 a year. Last year, voters turned down a 1.5-mill hike, that would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home $46 annually.

Clermont MRDD Director of Administrative Operations Libby Feck has said that levy defeat would cause the agency to lose $2.1 million.

Without an increase soon, Downey said the agency would have to make significant changes in service for 2004.


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