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Issue 9 would help fund Hamilton County Job and Family Services

Posted at 6:47 PM, Oct 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-18 19:32:18-04

CINCINNATI -- Hamilton County Job and Family Services is the agency that places children in foster care, but they say resources are getting tight with more children staying for more time, but more money not coming in. 

Now, supporters are looking to raise additional funds for JFS with a ballot issue in Hamilton County. Issue 9 would raise an additional $38 million for the agency annually by charging property owners $69 more per $100,000 of assessed value. 

JFS says the money is crucial, but some say it's a government money grab.

Paul Haffner is the CEO of Lighthouse Youth and Family Services. He took the position three years ago after leaving his corporate job.

"I couldn't look out on the city streets below me and just turn a blind eye anymore," he said.

Lately, the work has become more difficult, Haffner said. 

According to the Hamilton County Tax Levy Review Committee, there has been a 23 percent increase of children in foster care since 2013. While best practices recommend case workers have 15 cases, the average JFS worker has 33, the report states.

"We've seen an acute increase in the number of students being placed into foster care and the opioid crisis had a lot to do with that," Haffner said.

State Rep. Tom Brinkman said he doesn't buy the numbers.

"You have enough money to run Children's Services until 2020, and that's what they should do," he said.

Brinkman is leading COAST, the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes. He said he doesn't trust that the money would actually reach children.

"When you read the ballot language, it says the money goes to the general fund and they'll tell you, 'No, it's restricted,'" he said. "Then why is it going to the general fund?"

But according to the levy review committee, the clock is ticking. JFS has to find new revenue fast to continue offering the minimum services required by state law.

Haffner hopes the levy will pass.

"If we actually give them the funding that they need and deserve, we can do incredible things for our kids," he said.

If the issue passes, the levy will last for three years. 

Click here to read the committee's review.