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Cuyahoga County Foster Care Costs Drive $34 Million Health Services Deficit

Cuyahoga County is facing a $33.5 million deficit in its Health and Human Services budget before its levy is up for renewal next year.

The county is running out of money due in large part to the high numbers of children entering foster care as part of the ripple effect of the opioid crisis.

The cost of foster care in Cuyahoga County is close to $5 million per month and growing, according to county officials at a Monday briefing.

County Budget Director Maggie Keenon told the council’s finance committee budget cuts are being considered, along with an HHS levy increase.

“That’s an option that has certainly been discussed,” Keenon said. “I mean we would be remiss if we didn’t consider all of our options. But I will not say up here now that’s the plan we’re going to go with. Nobody has told me that’s what we’re going to do yet.” 

There are two HHS levies in Cuyahoga County, one runs through 2020 and the other through 2024.

County Council Finance Committee chair Dale Miller said they will have to consider increasing one of those levies through a measure on next year's ballot.

“The levy is a constant source of revenue where we have cost of living [increases] and other such things,” Miller said. “So we have a very serious and immediate problem.”

At the current rate, the county expects the deficit to increase by at least $5 million per year anually after 2020.

If the council opts to cover the deficit with a levy increase, Miller said, the county would have to start preparing soon to meet the December deadline for getting it on the March ballot.

Voters renewed the levy in 2018 for two years without an increase. The plan at the time was to ask for an eight-year extension in 2020.

Cuyahoga County property values were reappraised in 2018. Keenon said the expected funds from last year's reappraisal will increase revenue to HHS programs by about $5 million per year.

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