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Cuyahoga County executive releases new budget recommendations

October 14, 2019
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Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish released his third county budget last week, the 2020-2021 biennium budget. The proposed budget totals more than $1.75 billion[1] in total expenditures. With questions swirling about the future of the Justice Center, fallout from the jail conditions, questions surrounding an aging population, as well as increased demand in services for children, the proposed budget faced many questions about what funding priorities would be recommended. Budish finds himself trying to decide how to balance mounting needs in a variety of different spheres including economic development, community development and the general welfare of county citizens. The Center for Community Solutions has written previously about the conditions that will impact the county budget. To check out the 2020-2021 county budget preview, please click here.  

As promised, the county executive proposed to maintain the funding of the Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) board of Cuyahoga County for the next two years, at just more than $39 million per year.[2] This aligns with testimony the Chief Executive Officer of the ADAMHS Board, Scott Osiecki gave at a recent Cuyahoga County Council Health, Human Services and Aging (HHSA) committee meeting. The ADAMHS board of Cuyahoga County received an increase in state funding in the final Ohio FY2020-FY2021 budget.

 The county proposed spending $23 million of the opioid settlement dollars, to be distributed to various agencies

Additionally, the county executive proposed to maintain funding for MetroHealth at $32 million per year over the biennium.[3] MetroHealth CEO Akram Boutros has said that eventually MetroHealth would like to wean itself from the county budget allocation but the current funding allocation shows that is not yet the case.  

In examining the Child and Family Services budget proposal, the county executive proposal is $163 million per year over the biennium, an increase of $13 million annually over the biennium.[4] In recent HHSA meetings, the county publicly described the need to increase the number of social workers in order to reduce caseloads, as well as reduce burnout and turnover. The county did note in its report that it will receive an additional $14 million from the State of Ohio for child welfare programs and services including kinship care.[5]

 The Health and Human Services (HHS) levy fund will soon see a shortfall which means conversations will begin in earnest about if the county should renew, replace or increase the 3.9 mill levy.

The Department of Senior and Adult Services will also see a recommended increase in its budget allocation from $19.6 million per year over the biennium to $20.1 million annually.[6] If approved by council, the proposed increase in funding will be used to clear the waiting list for senior services in the Cuyahoga Options for Independent Living program (OPTIONS), which covers services like medical transportation, personal care, homemaker services and home delivered meals. The waiting list currently sits at 75 individuals.  

The Health and Human Services (HHS) levy fund will soon see a shortfall which means conversations will begin in earnest about if the county should renew, replace or increase the 3.9 mill levy. This levy is one of two alternating levies, the other being a 4.8 mill levy, which expires in 2024. Combined, the two levies currently bring in $244 million annually, and cost a homeowner $266 per $100,000 valuation of their home.[7]  

The majority of the electorate just saw an increase in home values last year in the housing appraisal process, and county citizens will also have to vote on a proposed levy increase for Cuyahoga County Community College (Tri-C) this fall, so the county’s decision on the HHS levy will impact services like re-entry from prison or jail and mental health moving forward. One major development in the October 7 budget hearing was that the Budish Administration recommended a “replacement” levy for one of the county’s HHS levies, the smaller 3.9 mill HHS levy, that expires next year and is slated to be on the ballot in the spring. Even though the administration recommended a replacement HHS levy, the county executive and county council have not yet agreed on whether or not the levy will be a 3.9 mill replacement levy, which would bring in an additional $12 million per year, or request an increase.The 3.9 mill levy alone currently brings in $104 million per year annually.

 Combined, the two levies currently bring in $244 million annually, and cost a homeowner $266 per $100,000 valuation of their home

In addition, the county prosecutor’s office requested an increase in funding, to hire more assistant prosecuting attorneys to handle the increased number of children in county custody. The county executive’s budget proposed increasing the county prosecutor’s budget as well, adding an additional $1 million per year to hire extra staff. The county executive also proposed an additional $3 million per year over the biennium to increase staff salaries.[8] Budish also announced that, as a part of Phase 1 of the Opioid Mitigation Plan, the prosecutor’s office would receive an additional $1.1 million to hire more attorneys. This would, according to the Office of Budget and Management, be in addition to the $1 million line item in the budget book.  

While several settlements have been announced with various pharmaceutical manufacturers related to the opioid epidemic, it is unclear how and when all of those dollars will be allocated. Press reports estimate the current settlement between Summit and Cuyahoga counties at $66 million,[9] though that dollar figure is unconfirmed and it is as yet unclear how and when the money will be divided. As of the drafting of this article, the county proposed spending $23 million of the opioid settlement dollars, to be distributed to various agencies including $5.4 million to the ADAMHS Board and $4.5 million to the Department of Child and Family Services. Additionally, the county executive announced that $2.5 million[10] of the settlement dollars will be dedicated towards a diversion center, for people with pending court cases who have mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. The county has not decided whether or not to build a standalone facility, or whether to integrate the diversion center into an existing facility. It should be underscored, however, that these dollars are one-time use dollars and are not counted in the planning of the 2020-2021 biennial budget. At a recent hearing when the budget was unveiled, in response to questions from county council, representatives from the Budish administration said they do not expect to figure those settlement dollars into funding planning decisions moving forward. Finally, the county still has pending litigation against several manufacturers related to the issue of opioids.  

Various administrative department hearings begin on October 15. County council will hear from the various administrators from the county divisions during the month of October. At the conclusion of those hearings, the council will present their own amendments in the coming weeks. Stay tuned to budget coverage on the health and human services of Cuyahoga County at www.CommunitySolutions.com.  

[1] Cuyahoga County Budget Book, Page 22  

[2] Cuyahoga County Budget Book, Page 85  

[3] Cuyahoga County Budget Book, Page 19  

[4] Cuyahoga County Budget Book, Page 91  

[5]Cuyahoga County Budget Book, Page 20  

[6] Cuyahoga County Budget Book, Page 102  

[7] https://comsolutionst.wpengine.com/understanding-cuyahoga-county-levy-calendar/  

[8] Cuyahoga County Budget Book, Page 124  

[9] https://radio.wosu.org/post/local-opioid-settlements-total-more-60-million-federal-trial-nears#stream/0  

[10] Cuyahoga County Budget Book, Page 21  

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