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The Daily



12-23-03: MR/DD to get more money but not enough


Partial settlement of a lawsuit against two state agencies will help ease the financial burden for the Mercer County Board of Mental Retardation/Develop-mental Disabilities (MR/DD), but it still will be one of the tightest budgets in years.
Board members at Monday’s regular meeting revised the 2004 budget plan to reflect nearly $400,000 in additional revenue through anticipated payments from the state Department of MR/DD and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The money is to correct underpayments for Medicaid-eligible services during the past decade. Eighty-six of Ohio’s 88 counties have sued the two state departments over the issue.
The financial windfall allowed board members to increase the budget to reflect the additional revenue, but the plan still calls for expenses to equal revenue. The budget includes no pay raises for employees, no capital improvements, no new equipment and reductions to many line items.
“The situation is much brighter than it was a month ago. It’s still not perfect by any means,” Overman said. “We all know here internally that we don’t have any fallback cash.”
Local MR/DD workers also are forming an internal task force to look at further budget-cutting measures, Overman said.
MR/DD workers will be among the minority of county employees who do not see a pay raise next year. Most county employees are getting 2.3 percent pay hikes.
“Because of the situation, I cannot, in any kind of good faith, recommend any kind of raises for the staff,” Overman said, adding that the pay issue could be revisited later next year, but only if the department’s financial picture vastly improves.
If not for the lawsuit settlement, the board likely would be looking at a deficit budget for next year.
The lawsuit was filed earlier this year by the Cuyahoga MR/DD board and soon was joined by 85 other counties, including Mercer. The local boards dispute how the state MR/DD department of ODJFS calculated Medicaid reimbursement for some services. Overman said the state offices used to conduct thorough audits to determine reimbursement rates but those eventually became to overwhelming to do annually. Instead, the state departments started setting arbitrary rates that many counties said failed to meet the proper Medicaid standards.
The Mercer County board accepted a proposed settlement for 1997 and 1999 for $125,000. Another settlement for $277,000 for 2000 and 2001 is expected in the near future. The sides continue to negotiate settlements for the other years in question. The dispute dates back to the early 1990s.
Overman said the local settlement figures are extremely close to the county’s actual costs.
The total claim for the county over the decade-long dispute tops $500,000, Overman said. Statewide, county boards claim they are owed more than $100 million from the Medicaid system.
In other business Monday, board members:
• Learned the board’s more common moniker, Cheryl Ann Programs, will appear on the ballot as part of the board’s 1.94-mill property tax levy renewal bid in March. Board members believe more people are familiar with Cheryl Ann than MR/DD and thus will more fully understand what they are voting on.
• Agreed to let the board’s non-profit arm, the CA Industries board, pay for about $9,000 in improvements to add walls to a wide open area in the workshop. The board agreed they will reimburse the costs when finances improve.
• Agreed to pay $4,606 to the Ohio County Boards of MR/DD Association, on part for legal representation in the Medicaid issue.
• Met for 45 minutes in executive session to discuss the discipline of an MR/DD employee. No action was taken after the private session.


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