Editor's note: Today, Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor and Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services Chief Executive Officer Shane Walter present Two Views on whether Woodbury County should withdraw from or remain part of Sioux Rivers.
Woodbury County is seeking to move in a positive direction to a collaborative relationship in a region where the highest priority is those in need of high-quality mental health services. Our Board of Supervisors believes that just such a region, Rolling Hills Community Services, exists to our east. Their good governance, long-term funding stability and highly reputed board and CEO (Dawn Mentzer) represent the best of what the Legislature intended with regionalization. We believe this is a stark contrast to the Sioux Rivers region.
Taxpayers - not to mention the providers we support - deserve funding stability and better budget planning. Rolling Hills anticipates a $28.50 rate (the level at which taxes are levied per capita) for the next two years based on their stable funding position, a contrast to Sioux Rivers’ poor budgeting. During the last budget cycle, newly passed legislation allowed for Plymouth County to equalize per-capita contributions. Rather than call a special meeting to ask for Woodbury County/Sioux County input when we had concerns of going below $20 per capita, CEO Shane Walter asked Plymouth to recertify their budget at his recommendation of a mere $17.58. Being beyond the state’s certification deadline, the Sioux Rivers board was left no choice but to rubber-stamp what Plymouth passed for the whole board.
Woodbury County budget analyst Dennis Butler (the region’s fiscal agent) reports that planned levy recommendations will put us at a negative $400,000 reserve balance despite the Sioux Rivers CEO’s head-scratching insistence otherwise. Sioux Rivers then must be at $28.48 in FY 19, essentially Rolling Hills’ rate, followed by the maximum levy of $30.49 in FY 20. Being a part of Rolling Hills represents for the foreseeable future a neutral, if not beneficial advantage to Woodbury County taxpayers.
We are impressed with the night-and-day difference in the way Rolling Hills approaches one-time funding allocations by stipulating “grant funding opportunities may be offered ... based on an assessed community need in order to engage providers in Evidence Based Practices” (FY18 service/budget plan). Sioux Rivers annually programs $200,000 to $300,000 in “provider improvement grants” without any criteria. This approach is criticized as a poor budgeting practice by our budget analyst.
Whether it is on school-based mental health funding or the criteria for rendering juvenile services, both of which have separately been points of objection in the Sioux Rivers region, we find an equitable set of rules for all counties in Rolling Hills. We know that any regional entity may have disagreements occasionally, but we anticipate healthy dialogue - a welcomed experience.
We see another contrast in Rolling Hills in a healthy level of trust among providers. Siouxland Mental Health Center's Friendship House director, Kathy Roberts, courageously explained that there were repercussions for advocating to Sioux Rivers on behalf of a new downtown Sioux City location as the best location from which to serve clients. Since that time, the Friendship House project of $675,000 was denied despite meeting funding requirements and having 63 percent of funds contributed by Woodbury County. We have noted that similar building projects were carried forward in Plymouth and Sioux, which we do not object to as we are a region until July 1.
Our withdrawal effective July 1, 2018, similarly follows Cherokee County’s exodus from Sioux Rivers into Rolling Hills.
Siouxland Mental Health Center is by far Woodbury and the region’s largest provider, receiving nearly 40 percent of all funding ($2.2 million). It speaks volumes that SMHC Board President Douglas Harrold wrote of their disappointment with Sioux Rivers and support of joining Rolling Hills while thanking the majority of Woodbury County supervisors for “advocating for us.”
We will continue to do so. Visiting the Crisis & Stabilization Center and Friendship House multiple times, I’ve learned of lives changed by staff working with those in need. We look forward to being considered by Rolling Hills to join in governance that puts high quality services and people first. Those we are charged to serve deserve no less.
Jeremy Taylor is a member of the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors.