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04-25-05 Local voters soon will decide fate of levies for two agencies

By Lance Mihm

  Auglaize County voters will be asked to approve an increased levy for the Mental Health and Recovery Services at the May 3 primary election.

  The mental health board is asking voters for a 0.5-mill, 10-year levy that would bring in $1.6 million to pay for operating expenses.
  If passed, this levy would replace the current five-year levy that was voted in at 0.5 mills, but has rolled back to 0.35 mills due to increased property values. The current levy brings in $1.1 million annually.
  Based on a $100,000 value home, a taxpayer would pay $15.31 annually if the new tax is approved.
  The Mental Health and Recovery Services board covers Auglaize, Allen and Hardin counties. Services offered include a walk-in regional crisis center that offers counseling in Lima, a 24-hour hope-line with emergency counseling, information and referral, counseling and education to middle school students to help prevent suicide and peer pressure resistance training.  The board also provides funding for family resource centers, Lutheran Social Services, National Association for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and St. Rita's Medical Center.
  Associate Director Michael Schoenhofer said the board serviced 6,000 patients last year, including about 1,200 in Auglaize County. He said the levy represents about 14 percent of the operating budget.

Auglaize County health board members are seeking approval of a 10-year, 1-mill replacement levy on the May 3 primary ballot.
The board discussed holding off on the levy until November to lower the election cost to the department because the primary ballot was thin. However, that would give board members only one chance to pass the levy before the current levy expires, health Commissioner Charlotte Parsons said.
If it is approved, the money will be used to pay for general operating expenses.
The current 1-mill levy is drawing about $600,000 per year. Due to increased property values causing the millage to rollback, residential property owners currently are taxed at 0.77 mills and commercial property owners at 0.91 mills.
  If the replacement is approved and brought back up to 1-mill, it would bring in about $800,000 annually, or cost a taxpayer about $30 a year on a home valued at $100,000.
  Parsons said the importance of passing the levy has increased due to proposed legislative changes.
  "If some of these proposed changes are made in Columbus, the total amount we draw with this could be lower," Parsons said. "As much as 20 percent lower."
  Parsons said a failure of the levy could result in loss of services to county residents.
  The health department offers public assistance with environmental health, food licensing, permits and inspections of sewage systems and wells, public pool licensing, communicable disease control and immunization, and other health related issues.


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