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Mental health fund balance discussed

Clinton Herald - 12/21/2017

Dec. 21--CLINTON -- Clinton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Hamerlinck is concurring with Eastern Iowa Mental Health Region CEO Lori Elam that the county must weigh a balance between cutting the fund balance to 20 percent while also continuing to provide services.

The Eastern Iowa Mental Health region, composed of Clinton, Cedar, Jackson, Muscatine and Scott counties, is required to reduce its fund balance due to the passage of Senate File 504. Elam stated Scott County is waiting for the first week of January to see where the tax revenue falls into place, adding she believes other counties will do the same. She referenced one proposal for the five counties to all levy at $19.30, She said levying at that rate allows the counties in the region to use up the fund balance while giving the taxpayers savings.

Supervisor Dan Srp expressed concern Monday that returning the dollars to taxpayers is not happening in an equitable and proportionate manner among the counties in the region. He stated the region's fund balance and how it is spent down is something county supervisors continue to monitor closely.

"One of my thoughts is that Scott County in the current year has already actively been spending down the portion of the region's fund balance because they levied lower than what their usage is," Srp said. "I guess I don't feel the $19 (per capita) is aggressive enough for us to follow suit with Scott County. And so if we're going to try to mirror their actions and get back into an equitable playing field I feel like we have to be more aggressive than that $19."

Board Vice Chairman Tom Determann also expressed concern with Scott County, stating it looks to him that Scott County is spending Clinton County's money, adding his focus is to protect the Clinton County taxpayers.

"It just seems like there should be a simple plan to make this equal or fair or whatever you want to call it that we can all agree on," Determann said. "I firmly believe we need to get this down to where we all levy the same rate. It's just getting to there. And I just don't like that basically, the way I see it, we contributed $65 per capita and Scott County has contributed $18. That just doesn't seem right to me."

Elam stated the counties can levy at any rate they deem appropriate, adding the region has the fund balance. The money is either invested or may be used to save taxpayer dollars or a combination between the two options.

"Obviously I'm going to want to push for a combination of because we do need to have these crisis services in place," Elam said. "And it does show already now just the minimal crisis services we have. It is saving your county dollars in terms of mental health commitments. And people are getting care faster, sooner. They're not in your hospitals. Now if we get them to stay out of your jail that would be even better. So it's definitely going to take all five counties working together and that's why one of my roles of coming out here on a quarterly basis and trying to share information and get that information out, answering questions you have, that was my goal."


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