UPDATE | Disabilities agency makes layoffs after levy failure

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LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 11/8/19 @ 10 p.m.
On Tuesday, a levy failed in Lawrence County that would've maintained and expanded services to people with disabilities.

A levy to help maintain and expand services to children and adults with disabilities has failed in Lawrence County, Ohio.

By Friday, the Lawrence County Developmental Disabilities Agency says they were forced to make layoffs to make up for lost revenue that would've come from the levy.

Just a few weeks before Thanksgiving, five employees found out they're out of a job.

"It's been a very tough day," Tim Nunnery, the communications and resource development director with the agency, said. "It's horrible losing a job this time of year. Today was not a day for anyone around our agency, and it's pretty much a sad day for Lawrence County."

The employees laid off included teachers, secretaries, and an early intervention specialist, Nunnery said.

The levy that failed would've generated an extra $2.5 million for what the agency calls a growing need.

"We had a waiting list for people waiting for our services," Nunnery said. "We were hoping with this levy we'd be able to provide our services to those people. Right now, we are not going to be able to provide those services."

The agency will also be cutting back on extra-curricular activities, and they won't be able to accept any new referrals.

"We see numbers of autism rising in the county," Nunnery said. "Those families, we won't be able to get our specialist out to them."

Nunnery says after the levy failed, they've seen a growing level of support on social media and in the community, and they're looking at getting the levy back on the ballot in the future.

Nunnery says three jobs that had been unfilled with the agency will remain vacant.

The last time the agency asked for new money was 1991, the superintendent of the agency said.

UPDATE 11/6/19 @ 6:30 p.m.
A levy to help maintain and expand services to children and adults with disabilities has failed in Lawrence County. Now, those with the Lawrence County Developmental Disabilities agency are trying to decide where to make cuts to make up for the lost revenue that would have come from the levy.

The levy was $2.5 million and would have lasted for 10 years. The last time the agency asked for new money was in 1991.

According to Julie Monroe, who is the superintendent, the agency hasn't received any new local funding in more than a decade, which is why she says the levy was much needed.

Monroe says the levy would have helped them to not only maintain the services they currently offer, but would have also allowed them to expand their services.

According to the agency, they are facing a financial shortfall of nearly $900,000 by the end of 2020 due to the rising cost of services.

"This levy would've kept us solvent and our plan was to stretch those dollars out over the next decade so that we wouldn't have to come back to the taxpayers in the next three years, five years or seven years," Monroe said. "So it would've helped us maintain the same level of services we provide now, as well as address the growing needs for our services in Lawrence County."

Monroe says they are now looking at having to make cuts since the levy failed.

"It's devastating to our agency. We have to scale back," Monroe said. "I hate that. But it's the reality we are faced with."

She says one of their most prominent programs, the Open Door School, will see changes.

"What this means immediately for our school is cutting back on extra-curricular activities," Monroe said. "That is something that will have to happen, and we will try to operate as normal as possible. However, we will not be able to grow."

Monroe says the school will not be able to accept any new referrals.

"Every program will be impacted somehow," Monroe said. "We will still operate, but every program will be impacted."

Monroe says she is grateful for the support the levy received and says they are even looking at trying to get the levy back on the ballot in a future election.

The agency still has to meet with the board to determine what final cuts will be made. Monroe says they have met with their administrative team and have drafted a proposal.

Monroe says they are hoping to have a final plan in place to alert the public of the changes by Friday.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.

The Lawrence County Board of Developmental Disabilities is facing a levy vote for the first time in nearly 30 years.

The levy that will be on all Lawrence County ballots on Nov. 5 will be the first since 2006 and the first time that the board is asking for an increase since 1991.

“It is a $2.5 million levy and so in Lawrence County, if you're looking at a house that is worth $100,000, it will cost another $87.50 a year,” LCDD superintendent Julie Monroe said.

Monroe says that the levy is necessary to keep the services that are provided consistent with the increased demand, a move that she believes will better the community as a whole.

“When people with developmental disabilities get to interact with their community, it's a better community,” Monroe said. “Everyone belongs.”

To those at the Open Door School, the board's most visible program, voting no on the levy could impact their students, putting increased pressure on their teachers and possibly even the local school districts.

“The children in Lawrence County need them and they need to vote for yes,” Open Door teacher Mary Beth Kelty said. “Voting ‘no’ is telling these children, these students that they're not important and they're just as important as any other person in Lawrence County.”

“Our children across all programs, our children and adults, from birth to death, the whole lifespan, we are able to provide so much for them as well as their families,” Open Door principal Kendra Heim said. “It would literally break my heart if it didn't pass.”

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.