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Latino voters, others to decide multiple levies in Lucas Co.

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent


Lucas County’s ballot is crowded with tax levies this November, as multiple agencies and school districts will compete for voter attention. But voter fatigue and a less-than-competitive Ohio governor’s race are expected to keep turnout low on Nov. 4, 2014.


Six school districts within Lucas County and three social service agencies are seeking property tax dollars. Most of the levies involve new money, which would mean a property tax increase for voters.


Toledo Public Schools (TPS), Washington Local, Maumee, and Oregon all are seeking school levies. Springfield is asking voters to approve two property tax-related school issues. Those are the first six levies that appear on the Lucas County ballot.


The TPS levy (Issue 1) is a five-year, 5.8-mill levy on the Nov. 4 ballot, which would raise approximately $13.3 million per year: an estimated $10 million for operating expenses and just under $3.4 million devoted to capital improvement costs such as new buses, upgraded technology, and building maintenance. 


School board members have stated the bulk of the new money would go toward resuming bus transportation that was cut in recent years due to the economic recession. TPS officials also call the levy critical to continuing the district’s transformation plan, upgrading computers and other technology, and to offer competitive salaries for employee retention and attraction.


TPS has not received new levy dollars since 2001. The proposed tax issue would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $203 annually. Voters rejected a levy in 2012 that would have meant additional tax revenue. School districts in Ohio have traditionally had a difficult time getting voters to approve new-money levies, especially as homeowners bear a greater burden in funding local schools because of state government budget cuts.


Lucas County Children Services (Issue 7), the Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board (Issue 8), and the Area Office on Aging Northwestern Ohio (Issue 9-- Lucas County Senior Services Levy) all appear on the ballot directly after the school tax issues.


The Lucas County Children Services (LCCS) tax request may be the most controversial of the three countywide levies. Children Services is going to the ballot two years early for renewal of its current 1.4 mill operating levy (due to expire in 2016) with an additional 0.35 mills for 7 years. The extra property tax, if approved, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $12.25 per year, for a total of $55.13.


According to a fact sheet, the children services board relies on levy dollars for more than half of its budget in providing the mandated service to protect children from abuse and neglect. About 40 percent comes from the federal government, with the remainder state funding. LCCS cares for more than 1,300 children daily—80 percent of them younger than 12, and more than half under the age of five. The agency handles nearly 5,000 referrals involving more than 6,000 children each year.


Voters last approved a children services levy in 2011. But the agency is seeking renewal of that levy early, citing cuts in state and federal funding and the need to make up that money with county tax dollars. LCCS reduced the amount of its original request over the summer after the county’s citizen levy review committee and county commissioners balked at the agency’s strategy of going to the ballot early with the larger amount.


Dean Sparks, LCCS executive director, recently told a levy public forum audience that the agency has been forced to cut expenses by $6 million over the last seven years and exhaust almost all of the $30 million reserve it had in just over a decade ago.


The Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board is seeking renewal of a 10-year, 0.5-mill levy that would generate $3.4 million per year. This is the only countywide levy that is not seeking additional funds. Approval would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $15.31 per year.


Backers contend heroin addiction is stretching the agency to its limit, as the use of opioids has increased dramatically. The board serves an estimated 27,000 people annually through 22 service providers with mental health, addiction, and emergency services.

The board expects to lose $2.4 million in state aid next year. If the levy fails on top of those funding cuts, the board plans to eliminate or reduce services to more than 4,000 people by cutting more than $3 million per year in direct services. The number of people the board serves has increased 13 percent over the past three years.

The Lucas County Senior Services Levy is a renewal of 0.45 mills for the current property tax that expires at the end of the year, plus an additional 0.15 mills. The cost of the five-year levy to the owner of a $100,000 would be $19.03 annually. The levy would pay for senior services such as care for residents with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and their caregivers; meals to homebound and frail elderly residents; medical transportation, home modifications, and chore services; support for senior centers; and homecare services to allow seniors to remain independent and at home.

The current levy has provided to seniors more than 323,000 meals, 105,000 hours of home care, 16,000 hours of respite and day care for Alzheimer’s patients, 4,000 units of chore services and 45,000 transportation trips for seniors.

According to the Area Office on Aging, Lucas County’s senior population has increased by 11 percent since the last levy passed, and is expected to increase another 11 percent over the next five years. The fastest-growing senior segment is those over the age of 90. As a senior advances in age by 10 years, he become almost twice as likely to have a disability, which results in a greater need for services to remain in their own home.


Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/28/14 20:24:38 -0800.




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