Palo Alto County reduces Care Connections levy

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Northwest Iowa Care Connections, a mental health agency, recently received an announcement that Palo Alto County will be decreasing their levy rate for mental health funding. Care Connections serves Lyon, Oceola, Dickinson, Palo Alto, Clay and O’Brien counties and is funded by levies from each county.

“The levies we collect every year is like a checking account,” Bill Leupold, Northwest Iowa Care Connections Mental Health Regions Board chairman, said.

As each county contributes a percentage based on population to Care Connections, the organization is able to continue with general operations. Palo Alto County recently dropped their mental health funding levy to $21.24 per capita, or $193,263 — a reduction of $203,089.

Additionally, the organization has an ending fund balance, which is the money not used at the end of each year.

“Our ending balance fund is like our savings account. We use it to support programs but, for the most part we let it build,” Leupold said.

According to Leupold, the funding has been accumulating for some time and has been utilized in funding various projects.

“For example, we gave money to the Seasons Center in Spencer when they were constructing the Autumn’s Center. That group works toward mental health and we supported their efforts,” Leupold said.

While Palo Alto has decreased their levy, the county is still contributing their fair share to the organization, according to Leupold.

“Palo Alto will pay a fair amount but, now they are taking it from the savings account. I believe it can hurt mental health in the region in the long run. ... If we drain our savings account, we won’t be able to fund programs,” Leupold said.

Clay County Supervisor Barry Anderson said Palo Alto’s decrease is within their rights and was done for valid purposes.

“They are just lowering what the levy is to benefit the tax-payers,” Anderson said.

Leupold agreed. He said the decreased levy will benefit the tax-payers and the organization’s clients will not see any difference.

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