The expenses for operating Horizons Specialized Services have continued to rise during the past three years, while the nonprofit organization's funding from the state has flatlined.
The Horizons board of directors plans to meet with Moffat and Routt county commissioners Jan. 27 during the board's annual retreat to discuss solutions to the funding dilemma.
One of those solutions could be a mill levy request.
"We realize that getting voter approval for a mill levy would be a challenge, but we also know that we need to do something, because our starting salaries are too low and the growth in our waiting list is alarming," Horizons Executive Director Susan Mizen wrote in a letter to both counties' commissioners.
Horizons provides housing, care, education and activities for Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco, Jackson and Grand counties' special needs adults. Horizons also provides support for special needs children and their families.
Horizons receives 88 percent of its funding from the Colorado General Fund and Medicaid. But funding levels have remained the same or decreased during the past three years.
In the meantime, utilities, food and rent costs have increased, and Horizons has given its employees an hourly 10-cent raise.
State statute allows community centered boards such as Horizons' board to collect a tax of as much as 1 mill with the approval of voters.
"Even if we pursue that possibility, it wouldn't have to be 1 mill," Mizen said.
She's hoping the county commissioners help the board find additional options to supplement state funding.
A couple of options are already on the table. The board could follow the path taken by another community-centered board and enter into the property management system, acquiring property and leasing space to other organizations.
Or the board could continue to raise money to create an endowment. The board already has a fund balance of about $600,000 that it invests. But, Mizen said, it would have to be a large endowment to collect a significant amount of interest.
Horizons already has instituted some fund-raising measures to supplement its budget, Mizen said. A direct mailing drive for children's programs raised $35,000 for Horizons at the end of last year. That's $5,000 more than the organization's goal.
"We don't want to overlook the fact that although we're behind in the state, we've had some very successful fund-raisers, and that's all local dollars," Mizen said.
Horizons operates on an annual budget of $3 million. Moffat County and the city of Craig fund Horizons through the Human Resource Council, a partnership that disperses local government charitable contributions. The council gave Horizons $16,500 last year.
The majority of the organization's clients reside in Moffat and Routt counties.
Thirty adult clients live in Moffat County, and 20 of those clients live in one of five group homes where they receive full-time care. Horizons assists 40 children and their families in Moffat County.
Commissioners Darryl Steele and Tom Gray plan to attend next week's meeting with the Horizons board.