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Concerns over SB-40 funds are addressed by board

Thursday, May 25, 2006

CHARLESTON -- Citizen concerns regarding the use of Mississippi County's Senate Bill 40 funds were eased following action taken by the SB-40 board Wednesday.

As provided by SB-40, on April 7, 1981, Mississippi County voters approved a mill tax, which is 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, for a sheltered workshop fund to maintain work opportunities and provide a suitable lifestyle for the mentally and physically handicapped residents of the county either through support of a sheltered workshop or by other means decided by representatives of the county.

Revenues for the SB-40 fund are projected to be $137,000 in 2006.

While the sheltered workshop fund has over $1 million in reserves, SB-40 board member Don Moxley estimated it would cost at least $1.5 million to build a home for the handicapped which would then need to be staffed.

He said a home has not yet been built "because the need hasn't been there yet."

The SB-40 board does not spend the money down, however, because if they did, they wouldn't have the money if the need arises, Moxley said.

The SB-40 board presently spends $127,200 per year to help fund the Community Sheltered Workshop in Sikeston which serves 35 Mississippi County residents, according to Dr. Randal Shurtz, SB-40 board member.

"The only sheltered workshop we have at this time is the one in Sikeston," he said.

County residents said there are other programs the board can support in addition to the CSW, however, based on amendments made by the state legislature to SB-40, the most recent of which was passed in 1986.

Tim Wagner of East Prairie said while the CSW is great, the board should "look for opportunities to help the kids that don't go to the workshop."

After hearing several requests from county residents for a needs assessment in the county, board members approved conducting a survey to determine the number of mentally and physically handicapped within the county.

Dick Brown, SB-40 board chairman, appointed Lesli Marcum, who motioned for the assessment, to chair the assessment effort. Brown asked Marcum to have a report ready for the SB-40's regular meeting in July.

Board members also approved a one-year contract with the Kenny Rogers Children's Center in Sikeston which is not to exceed $15,000.

Michelle Fayette, executive director of the Kenny Rogers Children's Center, said the Center serves about 300 children in the Bootheel without charge to the families.

Fayette said the contract, which is based on contracts made with the SB-40 boards in Scott and New Madrid counties, is "so we can recover at least some funding."

She explained if those receiving services have insurance or Medicaid, then the bills are sent there.

Fayette said in many cases, those served by the Center have their disabilities corrected in 18-24 months and are able to grow up to become productive members of the community and workforce.

While the Center serves about 30-35 children from Mississippi County, the SB-40 board will only be billed for those served who have no other payer source, according to Fayette. "It may only be five a month," she said.

Fayette also stressed that the Center receives no state or federal funding. She said three-quarters of its $1 million annual budget comes from fees for services while fund-raising such as the annual telethon and charity walk make up the difference.

In other action during Wednesday's meeting:

* Board members approved $28,000 for the CSW to purchase a trailer.

Harvey Cooper, executive director of the Community Sheltered Workshop in Sikeston, said the CSW needs the trailer to haul sawdust, primarily to Westvaco, a paper manufacturer.

Cooper also voiced his support for the board keeping money in reserves for a group home as it could possibly be needed in the future, urging "that we don't make changes at these people's expense."

Cooper also reported the CSW has just added a third bus to serve the people in Mississippi County and asked the board to "keep an open mind about what it costs to do that."

The first priority for the buses is to transport CSW employees, he said.

"Up until now, we've had two buses over here and both of them are full," Cooper said. He said each bus can hold up to 15 people.

Cooper asked that the board consider helping the CSW with operational funding, noting the workshop recently opened a thrift store that could use an enclosed trailer for transporting goods.

The thrift store is currently grossing about $5,000 per month, according to Cooper. "It's going to take a while to get it built up and known," he said.

* The resignation of Don Moxley, who has served on the SB-40 board since it was formed May 1, 1981, was accepted.

"He's served this board well," Brown said.

Brown also nominated Shurtz to replace Moxley as the board's treasurer.

* Board members rejected a request for assistance from the Bootheel Heart Health Association as the organization does not serve those the SB-40 fund was established to help.

* Citizen concerns regarding CDs totaling $1.5 million that did not appear on the SB-40 budget were addressed.

"It's been corrected and it's on there now," Brown said.