Mary Lou Wisdom, Pat Pearce, Don Roth, Steve Andrew: Horizons staff urges support on referendum
Horizons staff urges support on referendum
To the editor:
As past and present members of Horizons board of directors, we are writing to correct misrepresentations in a recent letter to the editor in the Daily Press.
It is true that Horizons has programs in place to serve adults with mental retardation and children with developmental delays. Horizons has been providing these services to Moffat County residents for the past 30 years. Most of Horizons funding comes from a contract with a state agency. The funds are primarily Medicaid dollars supplemented by the state general fund (in other words, taxpayer dollars).
The problem is that funding from this state contract has not kept pace with increases in Horizons’ expenses. In the past four years, Horizons has received one 2 percent increase.
During the same four years, Horizons’ employees received annual cost-of-living increases and the potential to earn an additional annual increase based on performance. Despite this, the starting salary is inadequate to attract and retain enough competent, committed people to provide help to adults with mental retardation.
More than an issue of employee pay, this is an issue of safety. Without the oversight of Horizons, the citizens of Moffat County would be forced to take care of people in crisis. The Memorial Hospital, the Craig Police Department, the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, Mental Health, and the Department of Social Services would become the caretakers of this vulnerable population.
The waiting list is a separate issue. We cannot offer help to anyone on the waiting list unless we find a new, permanent source of funding. From the state’s perspective, the problem is overwhelming. There are more than 4,000 individuals with mental retardation on waiting lists in Colorado. Our solution is to ask local taxpayers to contribute a modest amount — $7.96 for every $100,000 in residential property value — to help the Moffat County residents who are waiting for help. Of the 15 individuals on our waiting list, six are requesting services today. If the mill levy passes, all six will receive some help.
Support for individuals who can live semi-independently costs about $14,000 annually. Support for those who need 24 hour care can cost as much as $60,000 annually. This intense level of help would be provided in a group home. That is a lot of money, but it is much less than the $150,000 that it would cost if that same individual were in one of the three state institutions. When we offer help to someone from the waiting list, we are committed to helping them year after year. We will use the mill levy funds prudently because we cannot ever return to the taxpayers to ask for an additional increase. The state statute that authorizes the commissioners to levy a tax to support people with mental retardation specifically limits the tax to 1 mill.
Additionally, we will use a portion of the mill levy funds for our Early Intervention and Family Support programs.
When we realized that the only way to secure a new, permanent funding source was to ask the voters for a mill levy, we sought professional help. The management team at Horizons and the board of directors are experienced at running a nonprofit that helps individuals with mental retardation and their families.
In fact, the management team has more than 70 years of combined experience.
However, we have never run an issue campaign. We turned to an individual who worked on three other successful mill levy campaigns for people with mental retardation. We decided to hire her because this campaign is so important.
One of the first things we learned about Moffat County was that the percentage of registered voters who actually vote is unusually high. It doesn’t matter whether or not it is an “off” year.We also learned that Moffat County voters study the issues and cast informed votes. We realized the importance of educating voters about the need to help these county residents and why.
Our employee calls this a “forced donation.” True, property taxes are not voluntary, but this mill levy is tax deductible.
Please cast an informed vote on Referendum 1B. Please weigh all the information you have to make your decision. Look at the written material you have received in the mail and look at the list of endorsers — who represent a cross section of voters in Moffat County — and decide.Please choose to help and vote yes on 1B.
Mary Lou Wisdom
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