FOREST CITY - The Winnebago County Board of Supervisors decided to go through the mediation process with County Social Services regarding the board’s fund balance due.
“Essentially what it comes down to is we either need to pay or we need to go through the mediation process,” said county attorney Kelsey Beenken.
Supervisor Bill Jensvold said board members had been waiting to see how the mediation process worked out for Kossuth County, which has been in the process for several months and still is not completely finished, but he didn’t think it would drag out this long.
Supervisor Chairman Terry Durby said their case is different from Kossuth County’s. While the only difference is Kossuth did not levy taxes, it is a critical difference in each county’s situations.
“According to our 20E agreement, our balance is their balance,” Durby said. “It’s a bad agreement.”
Winnebago County has been trying to remove itself from the 22-county mental health region it has been assigned to by CSS because of the unfair balance in funding and paying.
“We are 1.8 percent of CSS’s budget,” Jensvold said. “I believe it was a little over 4 percent of their fund balance. So we came in with a big chunk of money that we’ll see very little back in services.
“I’m the kind of person who honors agreements that are signed, technically even if they’re bad ones, but you don’t like to have to live with an agreement where the rules have changed since you signed the agreement. And all the rules have changed and CSS is not what it started out to be.”
One of the ways CSS has changed, according to Jensvold, is it wants to become a provider of services, not just a tool to find them.
To this end, they hired two to three people in full-time positions, a cost of $1.5 million a year, at a Black Hawk County-owned facility the other counties can’t get anyone into.
Jensvold said the smaller region to the west they wanted to join had voted to have a $15 per capita levy so they could do more for their people. Winnebago’s 22-county region currently has a $35.18 per capita levy.
“They say that small regions aren’t going to be viable, but the smaller regions – I’ve looked at all the levies across the state – and the smaller regions are, most of them are surviving on lesser levies than what we have, so that tells me they must be viable,” he said.
However, Winnebago can’t leave because of the way the agreement with CSS was written and the way the state rules were written, according to Durby.
“The state law has changed in the last couple of years since we’ve signed that agreement and it’s reflecting poorly on us,” he said.