Buyouts offered as Butler Board of DD works to offset $3.6M deficit

A buyout program has been offered to some employees of the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities as it works to offset an expected year-end $3.6 million deficit.

About 20 employees have been identified as eligible for early retirement incentives, but so only four have accepted so far, according to BCBDD Superintendent Lisa Guliano. The offers will run through 2017, she said.

“If all 20 took it we may end up with a scenario where obviously we’re replacing some of those employees with entry level staff and then there are some positions we may consolidate and not replace at all, so we came up with a figure of about $800,000 in savings,” Guliano said.

The agency has a $30 million budget this year, but they also have about $26 million in reserves. The largest contributor to the shortfall has been an increase in local waiver matching funds for Medicaid, to keep people with disabilities integrated in the community.

This year the local match is $12 million and BCBDD served 3,350 clients last year. The agency had 2,716 clients in 2011 and Medicaid match was $7.6 million.

The phase out of personal property tax was also a big hit, it went from almost $2 million in 2005 to $1,352 this year.

The last time the board was on the ballot with a levy was 2004 and they won’t be going back on the ballot until 2018.

“We have a total of 3-mills continuing,” Guliano said. “We’ve been operating on the same 3 mills, replaced only one time since 1987. So it’s very impressive but it’s been a challenge. You’re stuck in that property evaluation from the time that you last replaced the millage.”

The board promised it would stay off the ballot for five years at that time, but then the Great Recession hit. The county commissioners have asked all the social service agencies with levies not to compete with one another, and because Children Services is up next year, Guliano said BCBDD has to wait until 2018 before it could ask voters for more money.

Linda McDowell’s son, Jonathan, has received services from BCBDD for about 25 years. While she wasn’t aware of the money woes, sometimes early retirement incentives can produce positive results, she said.

“Buyouts also give you the time to look at the structure you’ve got in place and kind of reorganize that too,” she said. “Especially in professions where you’re working with families or serving people, you don’t always have the luxury of being able to do that because you’re so busy doing the work … Depending how they organize this buyout, it could be a good thing.”

Another cost-saving measure that will bolster the bottom line is the fact a federal agency has mandated BCBDD get out of the adult day center business because it is a conflict of interest. There are 60 people who work at BCBDD’s Liberty Center, serving about 130 clients. A mandate from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services set a deadline of 2024 for BCBDD to stop operating the center. That agency said it is a conflict of interest for agencies to provide case management and direct services.

The plan is to close the center by March 2017, Guliano said, which will save about $1.4 million. Efforts to find a private provider to take over running the center didn’t pan out, she said.

“We do have some individuals at Liberty Center, and it is a smaller number, that we know we will have to work on a more lengthy transition plan for them,” she said. “We are not hearing providers say ‘absolutely we will not take people’… For the folks with the most challenging needs we work closely with a provider to come up with a successful transition plan.”

Melanie Moon, another parent whose child receives services from BCBDD, said as long as the organization doesn’t target front-line workers, like those at Liberty Center, she agrees with the buyout tactic.

“From a parent’s standpoint, it’s a scary time for a parent in Butler County right now and especially if your child is in programming at Liberty Center,” Moon said. “I do think Butler County is top heavy, so a buyout of some of the upper management might be a good thing.”

Tony Yocco, vice president of the board and chairman of the finance committee, said the drop in property values due to the recession have hurt the board’s bottom line, but he said they will not do anything to harm their client families.

“Just like any other business when you have budget reductions, you eliminate those items that are not essential,” he said. “You consolidate roles where you can or offload different activities to lower cost providers if that’s the right thing. Every decision we make on the board is focused around what is best for the individuals with disabilities that need our support.”