As a board of health member, I have been asked why the Union County Health Department is asking for a .75-mill levy renewal with a .15-mill increase in the upcoming November election.
To answer the question, I feel it is important voters understand several things that have transpired since the last levy request was approved in 2008.
First, changes in property tax law by the legislature make it cheaper for the homeowner if the board asks for a levy renewal with an increase over a replacement.
Secondly, the state began phasing out the Tangible Personal Property (TPP) tax. While this reduction in TPP stimulates business growth, it reduces the support school districts and local governmental entities receive. In 2018, the reduction in TPP cost the health department $235,000.
Growth in Union County is obvious. One would think that as farmland is converted to housing developments or shopping areas, the increased tax revenue would more than cover the cost of providing services for the growing population. But there is competition for the tax money. A method used to fund the additional infrastructure needed to support the development is the creation of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts. This allows the local government to set aside the additional tax money and use it for community improvements.
According to the Development Services Agency for the State of Ohio, there are 14 active TIF districts in Union County and they include such areas as Coleman’s Crossing, Legends, Mill Valley, Scott Farms and Walker Meadows. While few would argue that the infrastructure improvements funded by the TIFs are not essential, the property improvements do not result in new tax revenue for many local entities, such as the health department. At the same time, the growth puts more pressure on agencies to provide more services.
Lastly, the budget for the health department increases each year. In addition to the usual increased cost salaries, benefits, utilities, supplies, etc., the health department has seen expansion of programs.
The state-directed changes to the rules for home sewage treatment systems, while troubling to many residents with septic systems, continues to be a major program for local health departments to implement and manage. The permit and inspection fees collected from homeowners do not cover all the costs incurred by the department. Additional staff and vehicles have been needed to meet our 2020 deadline for completing the assessments.
As a means of offsetting costs, the health department applies for grant money from many sources. In 2017, the department received $741,878 which supported programs such as education of new parents, prevention of falls in senior citizens, indoor air quality (radon), household sewage system repairs for low income families and tire pile clean ups. Even with that revenue, the health department is dependent on its local levy for operations. The board of health receives no other local source of funding for its operations.
The need is real and I urge you to support the levy efforts.
Union County Board of Health
As Superintendent of Camp Christian since 1998, I’ve had a very close working relationship with the Union County Health Department. The camp has three of the licenses that UCHD issues and is inspected routinely by its sanitarians. I can personally attest to their professionalism and efficacy while doing their fieldwork.
I’ve also proudly served as a member of the Union County Board of Health since January 2001. I’m honored to serve as its president since March 2009. Our Health Department is one of the best in the state of Ohio and is nationally accredited.
The UCHD is on the ballot Nov. 6. The board of health is asking residents to approve a renewal of its 10-year .75-mill levy, set to expire this year, with a .15 mill increase. This is not a new levy. A renewal with increase will cost the average homeowner $23.51 per $100,000 property value. The increase portion allows us to capture current property values and try to catch up with 10 years of inflation. This is similar to a replacement levy. But, a replacement levy would have cost homeowners about $3 more per $100,000 property value.
The BOH is very cognizant of how public dollars are spent. Being good stewards of public funds, these thoughts are foremost during. The board of health chose to go on the ballot asking for a renewal with increase. This also allows our property owners to keep their state rollbacks, which was important to us.
Residents can rest assured that the good works being done by the health department ensure that food is served safely, each new baby gets the best possible start to life, disease threats are identified, responded to, and prevented when possible, and that Union County continues to make it easier for residents to lead healthier, longer lives.
Under Ohio law, health departments are not considered part of the county administration and do not receive funds from the county budget. We do receive state funding, approximately $8,000/year, which is less than 0.5 percent of our annual budget. It’s interesting that the state keeps adding unfunded service requirements and expecting the local health departments to provide them.
Levy funding is critical to the health department’s financial stability and thereby, its ability to provide public health services to Union County residents. Programs such as our prenatal and immunization clinics, new-born home visits, breastfeeding support, disease prevention and investigation, Safety Town and senior falls prevention would not be possible without levy funding.
Levy funding also makes it possible for our staff to aggressively seek additional grant funding. Approximately 20 percent of our budget, is awarded through state/federal grants and contracts such as Radon Prevention, Safe Routes to School, Blessing in a Backpack, Farmer’s Markets, etc.
Union County Health Department’s mission is to protect the health, safety and well-being of all Union County residents by providing quality public health services. Our staff cannot do this without your support and funding.
Please join me in voting yes for the UCHD levy.
James “Al” Channell
President of the Union County Board of Health