Dawn Mentzer, Rolling Hills Community Services Region

Dawn Mentzer, left, CEO of the Rolling Hills Community Services Region, talked with the board of supervisors on January 29 to work out details of adding Woodbury County to the mental health/disability region. Photo by Dan Mundt

Dawn Mentzer, CEO of the Rolling Hills Community Services Region, visited the Crawford County Board of Supervisors on January 29 to work out the details of adding Woodbury County to the mental health/disability region.

Rolling Hills serves Buena Vista, Calhoun, Cherokee, Crawford, Sac, Ida and Carroll counties.

Woodbury County is currently a member of the Sioux Rivers Region with Sioux and Plymouth counties.

The Crawford County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 on May 1, 2018, to deny Woodbury County entry into Rolling Hills.

The supervisors did not want Crawford County to subsidize Woodbury County if that county did not have enough money to contribute to the region on an equal basis.

The Rolling Hills member counties voted 5-2 on May 8, 2018, to bring Woodbury County into the region.

Mentzer’s goal for her visit last week was to get the supervisors to amend Crawford County’s 28E agreement with Rolling Hills to make several minor changes and to add Woodbury County to the document.

A 28E is an agreement between public and/or private agencies for cooperative action.

The change to the agreement was required prior to the certification of the member counties’ budgets to allow Woodbury County to enact a higher tax levy to support the region in the next fiscal year.

“Right now their county levy cap is $30.49,” Mentzer said. “With the budget we determined that in order for them to cover their expenses in the first year of operation they need to be at a $33.63.”

The Iowa Department of Management would not allow Woodbury County to certify at a higher levy rate without entering into a 28E agreement with the counties in Rolling Hills.

“That is why we needed to re-sign the 28E,” she said. “With all of the counties re-signing with that, it needs to be filed with the secretary of state prior to March 15.”

The supervisors voted 5-0 to make the changes and add Woodbury County to the agreement.

Woodbury County must be able to cover the costs of their own expenditures because Rolling Hills has a fund balance that the region’s board of governance wants to protect, Mentzer said.

Mentzer and the Rolling Hills staff have been working out the details of adding Woodbury to the region since last May.

“It has been a lot of work,” she said.

A major issue was which of Woodbury’s non-core services would be funded when the county joins Rolling Hills.

“We had to look at all of the non-core services that Woodbury County was funding that we do not fund here,” Mentzer said.

The Rolling Hills board decided to fund some of the services and partially fund others.

“The board has done a lot of work in making their decision and also making the budget projections including Woodbury County,” she said.

Legislation passed in 2017 complicates the budgeting process.

“Senate File 504 requires the counties in the region to be down to 20 percent fund balance by the end of (fiscal year) 2020,” Mentzer said.

When the law was enacted, Mentzer voiced her concerns that the drastically reduced fund balances might reduce the ability of the mental health/disability regions to sustain services.

“It was quite a challenge to try to bring in a county that is similar in population to our seven counties, all the while ensuring that they are meeting their expenses and then getting all of us down to that fund balance threshold,” she said.

“Our board decided that instead of getting down to the 20 percent, there is a possibility that the legislature will take action on that restriction to the fund balance in this legislative session, so we ended up projecting a 30 percent ending balance in the hopes that that is taken care of.”

The projected budget for the next fiscal year, including Woodbury County, is $7.4 million.

Rolling Hills will end that fiscal year with a 30 percent ending fund balance.

Woodbury County will formally join the region on July 1, provided the county meets the terms and conditions of a memorandum of understanding signed last May.

Staffing needs for the coming year must still be addressed.

“We’re trying to develop new core services that meet the needs of all of the counties, as well as the stakeholders and consumers within the region,” Mentzer said.

Legislation passed in 2018 requires eight core services that must be provided across each region, either by providing the service directly or contracting for it.

“That is really going to be the larger focus for the next year and a half because we have to have all of those core services in place by June 30, 2021,” she said.

Her overall goal has been to create a smooth process to bring Woodbury County into the region.

“For the most part, I think we are there,” she said.

Mentzer believes most individuals who receive services in Woodbury County will likely be unaware of the change.

“There have been some financial differences between what our region will fund and what Sioux Rivers did, so that may have some impact on people receiving outpatient services,” she said, “but I think, for the most part, it has been pretty seamless.”

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