Children services levy approved for ballot

A renewal levy to benefit abused and neglected children in Belmont County will go before voters in November.

County commissioners this week approved a request by Belmont County Children’s Services to place on the ballot a 0.65-mill renewal levy for the upcoming general election on Nov. 4. The current 10-year levy expires at the end of 2014.

County Department of Job and Family Services Director Vince Gianangeli said the levy is actually based on property valuations in place when the initial children’s services levy was passed during the 1950s.

As such, the levy before voters generates about $275,000 annually, and would not change if approved this fall. The same levy would cost taxpayers $675,000 under today’s valuations if it were replaced, according to Gianangeli.

About half of Ohio’s counties have levies for children’s services, and the Belmont County Children Services is among the state’s largest operations. The levy represents about 20 percent of the agency’s annual $1.4 million budget.

“People have always been supportive of the levy,” Gianangeli said. “One of the most sensitive areas we have is our children. We, along with our citizens, are huge advocates for children and their protection. We value the kids that grow up to be the adults and our future.

“This levy will allow us to sustain, maintain and continue to provide the services to those children (who are) unfortunately the victims of child abuse and neglect.”

A large portion goes toward funding the county’s contract with Harmony House, a facility where abused children are evaluated for treatment. Funds are also put toward child abuse and neglect investigations, and the costs for placement of abused and neglected children.