By Tim Cox
Mercer County officials are unhappy that the words "Cheryl Ann" will not appear in the ballot language of a 2.42-mill property tax levy sought by the county Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (MR/DD) board.
Ballot language is finalized by the Ohio Secretary of State's office and state officials ignored the portion of the resolution approved by Mercer County Commissioners that called for the program to be listed with Cheryl Ann tag as an "also known as" phrase.
It is too late to change the language in the tax question because ballots have already been printed and absentee votes already are being cast.
Most county residents likely know something about Cheryl Ann and the program's services, MR/DD Superintendent Mike Overman said Thursday. Many, however, might be confused by the language if the program is identified only by its formal title.
The issue is especially frustrating to county officials because all parties involved went out of their way to make sure the familiar Cheryl Ann name appeared on the ballot. "We were all on the same page that Cheryl Ann Programs needed to be on there," Overman said. "My disappointment is some people aren't going to know what they're voting for or against."
MR/DD officials are seeking the six-year levy to generate an estimated $1.75 million annually to expand services for a growing clientele. MR/DD has about 60 employees and serves 325 people with an array of different services.
Amy Ikerd, Mercer County's assistant prosecuting attorney, discussed the issue with Secretary of State officials. Ikerd said she was told state elections officials always ignore any extraneous language that is not necessary for the ballot. The office also frowns on nicknames, although makes some exceptions for MR/DD programs statewide because many of them are known locally by other names.
The county could succeed in getting the Cheryl Ann moniker attached to future ballot issues by including the name with the rest of the ballot language. In the county's resolution, the issue was mentioned in a separate paragraph to try to make it more clear. That actually led to Cheryl Ann being omitted from the ballot.
The MR/DD program suffered another potential public relations black eye in recent months when some people were led to believe property taxes have been increased recently to help fund the program. That mistaken belief arose when a new 1-mill property tax levy to run the county home -- a completely separate entity from MR/DD -- was shown lumped in with MR/DD tax revenue on the breakdown of total taxes shown on county property owners' tax bills.