County Election Official: ‘Unusual’ To Have Six Levies On Same Ballot

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When voters in Athens County go to the polls this November they will be asked to decide six countywide tax issues.

“It’s highly unusual to have that many county issues,” said Penny Brooks, deputy director of the Athens County Board of Elections.

Brooks said she doesn’t recall, in her nearly 40 years as an elections board employee, ever having six countywide tax issues on the ballot at the same time’.

She said its not unusual for there to be more than one, but in those cases it is usually two or three.

November’s countywide levies include: Athens County TB Clinic, 0.3-mill renewal, five years; Athens County Public Libraries, 1-mill additional, continuing; Athens County Children Services, 3-mill renewal, five years; senior citizen meals, 0.25-mill renewal, five years; Athens County Emergency Medical Services, 1-mill replacement, five years; Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities, 1.5-mill additional, continuing.

With six countywide levies on the ballot competing for their tax dollars, could some voters opt not vote for levies they otherwise might have supported?

“That’s always a possibility,” said Warren Haydon, who is a member of the Athens County TB Board and treasurer of the levy campaign for Athens County Public Libraries.

Haydon said he hopes people will understand that there is a reason the levies are being sought.

“The object of the (TB) levy is to ensure that the Athens County public is safe, and can get treatment as needed,” Haydon said. The levy pays for testing materials, diagnostics and treatment if needed, and also money is being set aside in case the county has to pay for treatment of someone who has contracted a multiple-drug resistent form of TB, which can be very expensive.

In the case of the library system — which is seeking its first-ever levy — there has been a 23 percent cut in state funding, and another 10 percent cut is expected in the spring, Haydon said, noting that the libraries provide “an incredible amount of services” to the public.

Haydon said he does not believe the levies are in jeopardy.

Eric Young, superintendent of the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities, said cuts in state and federal funding have shifted costs to the local level for agencies.

“It does create a situation where we local entities have to compete for the local dollars,” Young said.

Also, Young noted it’s not just the six county levies that are in competition for local dollars, so are other taxes on the ballot.

There will be about 25 tax issues on the November ballot, including tax issues in Athens, Nelsonville, the villages and townships. The filing deadline to get issues on the November ballot is Wednesday.

Young said the developmental disabilities board decided to go forward with a levy because the public has indicated it wants the programming provided by the board to continue, including the programs at Beacon School and Atco sheltered workshop.

“It’s always a good idea to be concerned about the burden that taxpayers have to bear with levies,” said Cathy Hill, executive director of Athens County Children Services, who noted there is always a bit of anxiety when putting a tax before voters, no matter what the situation.

“Our levy is on the ballot as a renewal, it’s not a new tax,” she said.

Rick Callebs, chief of Athens County EMS, said there is never a perfect time to put a levy on the ballot that asks voters to continue a tax and to bump it up a bit, which is what EMS is doing by asking for a replacement levy. He said EMS is trying to keep up with the increased cost of doing business, and he hopes voters will remember the importance of emergency medical services.

“There’s always a concern that with that many on the ballot there is a potential for backlash,” Callebs said.