2017-09-07 / Front Page

Restoration millage seen as better path for ‘child care’ funding

Instead of proposing strictly a “child care fund” millage, discussion was held at subcommittee meetings Aug. 30 by county employees to consider a restoration millage for Roscommon County. This millage would be considered by voters on the August, 2018, ballot.

At a July 26 meeting, proposing a 1/2 mill for the child care fund had been discussed. That 1/2 mill, if it were supported by voters, would bring in about $634,000.

Controller Jodi Valentino said in a Sept. 1 telephone interview that the restoration millage would increase the amount of mills that can be requested from 3.583 mills to 4.6 mills.

Equalization Director Jamie Houserman said at the meeting that by going for a full restoration millage, it would bring in “just under $1.3 million” to the county’s general fund. She also said the last time Roscommon County had a general fund millage request was in 1978.

Sheriff Ed Stern asked how much the millage would cost per household and Houserman said that she would be able to provide “cash out of pocket” figures by the next meeting, which has been scheduled for Sept. 14 at 1 p.m.

It was the consensus of those at the meeting that educating the public on what the money would be used for is a key point. Commissioner Gary Stefanko (District 5) said when members of the public hear the term “child care fund,” they link it to their personal child care needs. For example, having someone else look after a three-year-old while the parents go to work.

Judge Mark Jernigan said the “child care fund” is not used solely for problem children, the money is used to support youth who have been the victim of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect or criminal sexual conduct matters, among other circumstances.

Undersheriff Ben Lowe agreed that the public needs to be educated more on the “child care fund.” He said the community may not know the severity of child abuse and neglect in Roscommon County. He said that by working with the Northern Michigan Children’s Assessment Center he knows that hundreds of children have been seen there this year for a range of matters.

Because the term “child care fund” can be misleading, those in attendance began suggesting alternative names for the fund. The committee agreed that the “child care fund” will now be referred to as the “neglected, abused and delinquent youth fund.”

Not only would the restoration millage be used to bolster the “neglected, abused and delinquent youth fund,” it can be used for other areas as the money would go into the general fund. Valentino said in a Sept. 5 telephone interview that the money from the millage would be split into three areas with $550,000 going to the “neglected, abused and delinquent youth fund,” $500,000 going into the general fund to support 90 days of operations and $350,000 would go to jail safety and security.

While Stefanko said that the county needs to consider asking for “what we [the county] need and not what we want.”

Since county employees cannot work on a campaign in support of the millage during their regular working hours and county funds cannot be spent on campaign materials, Stern and Jernigan suggested that presentations be made to area organizations, schools and at public meetings. Valentino said that a political action campaign will need to be established.

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