Franklin County voters will again be asked to decide on a tax increase to help those with developmental disabilities.
The county commission Tuesday approved putting the proposed property tax increase on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The proposal, Proposition A, will seek the same increase that voters rejected in April 2011.
The earlier proposition failed by a vote of 5,485 to 6,712.
The county’s developmental services agency wants to increase funding from its current level of 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to 20 cents.
If approved by voters, the tax would generate an additional $1.7 million for the agency each year.
Dr. Ron Kruse, executive director for the county’s developmental services agency, told county commissioners earlier this year that the increase is needed to meet the high demand for the services his agency and entities which receive grant funding from the agency.
The tax rate has remained the same since it was instituted 25 years ago.
Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said the increase wouldn’t take effect until property owners received their 2013 tax bills, which would be about a year after the election.
The measure will require a simple majority of voters for approval.
Kruse said with the additional funding, the sheltered workshops and other facilities, such as Rainbow Activity Center in Union, would be expanded and improved.
Kruse said the county’s two sheltered workshops, which offer jobs to those with disabilities, employ about 240-250 people, but have a waiting list of about 150 more.
Those applying now to the Sullivan workshop wouldn’t get a job until about 2018, he said. In Washington, it would take until about 2016.
Kruse said residents with disabilities want to have a job like everyone else has.
“They want to have friends and lead normal lives and with these services, they can,” he said. “With children graduating from high school, we don’t have a way to offer them employment.”
Kruse said the number of children diagnosed with some form of autism also is on the rise, with over 300 known autistic individuals in Franklin County.
“We’d use a significant portion of the new revenue to provide services for them,” he said.
Kruse said his agency and the other nonprofits in the county which make up the developmental services resource board are working to develop a program which would provide social interaction, integration and consistency for autistic children — at home, at school and in between.
Such a program requires highly trained personnel, he said.
Additional transportation services also are needed to be able to provide additional services to those who, because of their disabilities, can’t drive, he said.
“There’s a lot we need to do to have enough vehicles and drivers. Just maintaining those vehicles is expensive,” he added.
Overall demand for the services provided by the agency has increased over the past quarter of a century, Kruse said, outpacing the growth due to valuation increases.
Kruse estimates county agencies are able to serve about a third of the 1,300 individuals known to have developmental disabilities.
There will be some cost to the county agency just for putting the issue on the ballot, Clerk Debbie Door said.
Door said the county charges every entity that holds elections a portion of the election’s cost.
Kruse said with a November election, supporters have enough time to engage in a lengthy public relations campaign.
“The thought was to have enough time to get the word out and have people fully understand what the need is,” he said. “The first time (in April 2011), it was pretty rushed. This will work better to have more time to inform the public.”