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Health dept. seeks slightly more money

Zoe Greszler • Jun 15, 2019 at 10:00 PM

Health department officials will ask the community to bring their current .25-mill levy up to date this election season. 

To do so, the owner of a $100,000 home will be asked to pay $1.04 more each year.

Huron County Public Health (HCPH) board members voted to place the levy on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. The tax would be a replacement levy, meaning it would tax home owners on the current property values of their homes, rather than when it was first issued two decades ago.

Currently, the .25-mill levy produces an estimated $109,810, costing the average $100,000 home owner about $7.21 annually. 

If passed, the replacement levy would cost the same resident about $8.25 each year, producing an estimated $279,587 in funds. 

Health Commissioner Tim Hollinger said the board determined the amount of money raised with the current levy isn’t sufficient to maintain the operations of an accredited public health district — which will soon be required by the state — and to support its current programs and services.

“This levy has been on as a renewal for the last 20 years,” he said. “Our cost to do business continues to rise, just as it does for any business in the private sector.”

Hollinger said those costs soon will be increasing as the department strives to keep up with state law.

“HCPH is one of only 218 accredited local health departments nationwide and additional funding is needed to continue to maintain this accreditation,” he added.

The state passed a law requiring all health departments to gain national accreditation status by 2020.

“Unfortunately, there is a financial cost associated with maintaining the level of services that are required of an accredited health district,” Hollinger said.

In recent years, HCPH expanded the programs and services it provides the community, in efforts to impact its overall health.

The department also is looking to begin a new community health assessment, the last of which was completed in 2017. Board members said that funding produced by this potential replacement levy will give the district the opportunity to act on the results it will receive from the assessment. With enough funding, the board said it hopes to “seek out and provide additional programming to impact health in the community’s identified priority areas.”

Meanwhile, Erie County officials completed the steps to put a renewal levy on the ballot this fall.

The health department will seek the renewal of a 0.3-mill renewal levy. Since it’s a renewal, approval of the levy wouldn’t raise taxes for Erie County residents.

The Erie County commissioners approved a resolution May 30 to put the levy on the ballot.

The 0.3-mill levy produces $650,000 a year, about $3 million over five years.

The health department is supported locally by three levies, 0.2-mill, 0.3-mill and 0.5-mill. Together, they add up to a one-mill levy that brings in about $2.2 million a year.

Putting a levy on the ballot usually is a routine matter, but in 2018, after the health department asked the county commissioners to put a levy on the fall 2018 ballot, the commissioners took no action. Health department officials didn’t notice the problem until it was too late to fix the matter and the department’s levy was left off of the November ballot.

Officials said last year the letter the health department sent to the commissioners apparently was lost in the mail or overlooked.

The renewal levy will expire in tax year 2018, i.e. this year.

Pete Schade, Erie County’s health commissioner, said he isn’t worried.

“I have a comfort level that the community is going to take care of us on the levy,” he said.

Schade said he believes many voters are pleased the health department only has sought renewals for many years, avoiding requests for tax increases by obtaining more grant funding and other new revenue sources.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Jackson of Tandem Media Network contributed to this story.

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