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Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Renewal levy sought for Cheryl Ann programs

By Shelley Grieshop
A county agency that offers programs for mentally and physically challenged clients is seeking to renew a property tax levy in May.
Mike Overman, superintendent of Mercer County Developmental Disabilities (DD) - also known as Cheryl Ann programs - asked county commissioners on Tuesday to place the issue before voters May 3.
"We're in no position to operate without it," Overman said of the levy.
Commissioners are expected to approve Overman's request, although they did not indicate when a decision might be made. The deadline to get the issue on the ballot is Feb. 2.
The DD board last month passed a resolution stating their intent to renew the six-year, 2.42-mill levy that was first approved by voters in a 2-to-1 margin in November 2005.
The amount taxpayers currently pay for the levy will not change. The owner of a $100,000 home would continue to pay approximately $80 per year.
If passed in May, it would continue to generate an estimated $1.75 million annually. The levy is one of five the DD utilizes for operation and program costs. Other levies include a five-year, 1.36-mill levy first passed in May 2009 and three continuous levies, each for 1-mill.
The DD program, which serves clients from preschool age to adults, also is funded by the state and federal government. The agency's budget is approximately $6.4 million.
Commissioner Jerry Laffin said his only concern was the cost to put the issue on the ballot. According to Laura Bruns, deputy director of the Mercer County Board of Elections, if no other countywide issues or levies are put before voters in the off-year election in May, the entire cost of the process could be assessed to the county and eventually reimbursed by the DD.
Bruns hesitated to estimate the cost of the upcoming election because it depends on whether any other levies, issues or candidate races are filed within the next three weeks. The only other issue expected at this time is a levy for Celina City Schools, although as of Tuesday it hadn't been filed, she said.
A change in voting methods in May also could alter expenses, she explained.
"It's really hard to say because we're going to total touchscreen voting and won't be using paper ballots this time," she said.
Bruns said the most substantial cost for each election is poll worker salaries, which total about $24,000.
The board of elections has allocated $35,000 to cover all expenses for the May election, she added.
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