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Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Voters to see levy


By Shelley Grieshop
Mercer County Commissioners on Tuesday approved action to put a countywide property tax levy on the March ballot to financially support the local health department.
The five-year, 0.6-mill levy was requested by the Mercer County-Celina City Board of Health to supplement its annual budget. If voters approve it, the current funding burden would be removed from the political subdivisions - townships, villages and the city of Celina - that now jointly pay for 22 percent ($245,000 annually) of the health department's annual budget.
The levy is estimated to bring in $530,274 annually, which represents 48 percent of the budget. If it is approved, a resident with property valued at $100,000 would pay $18.38 per year.
Services provided by the local health department include immunizations, sewer/septic, well, landfill and food service inspections, nursing services, water sample testing and vital statistics.
Although fees are paid by the public for specific services, the charges do not completely cover salaries, supplies and other expenses.
A countywide levy was proposed several months ago after a few township trustees complained their budgets were too tight to continue paying annual health department fees. Townships, which receive the majority of their funding from the state, are slated for state funding cuts of 25 percent in 2012 and 2013.
The health board initially proposed levy millage amounts of 0.35 and 0.4 mills before deciding 0.6 mills was needed.
After several meetings between health officials and representatives of the 23 political subdivisions, the board of health on Nov. 9 approved 4 to 1 to put the 0.6-mill levy on the primary ballot. Board member George Moore cast the sole no vote, saying he disagreed with the millage amount.
Commissioners this week said their part in the process is dictated by the Ohio Revised Code. They offered no comment for or against the levy.
"This is just part of the certification procedure," commissioner Jerry Laffin explained.
Commissioners Bob Nuding and John Bruns said the fate of the levy rests on voters.
The final step to placing the issue on the ballot involves the filing of the necessary paperwork with the board of elections by Dec. 7.
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