Health department will seek to renew tax levy

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The Union County Health Department’s (UCHD) board of health approved a resolution to renew one of its levies with an increase at Wednesday morning’s meeting.
The UCHD had three options for its 0.75-mill levy set to expire at the end of this year: replace, renew with a 0.15-mill increase or propose a new one. UCHD Health Commissioner Jason Orcena said after a town hall discussion and other efforts to connect to voters, the renewal with an increase option was the most popular option.
“There’s the savings to the homeowner and there’s a rollback,” Orcena said. “We’ve had a couple of elected officials who have expressed strong opinions that it was desirable.”
Orcena said there still needs to be education about the effect and benefits of the levy to voters before the election in November.
Union County Auditor Andrew Weaver visited the meeting to provide guidance on the levy.
She provided a “preliminary estimate” for the board on how much revenue will be generated in the first year of collection for a renewal plus increase levy, totaling to $1.192 million. Her values will cost taxpayers an additional 9 cents per $100 of valuation “based on the current assessed valuation of Union County.”
Weaver said she’s worked with other townships on similar levy situations. She said taxpayers will see savings with a renewal, as opposed to a replacement.
“If you want to continue to benefit your taxpayers by letting them have that rollback scenario, then you’ll do a renewal because there’s no new money involved,” Weaver said. “They’ll continue to see that 10 and two-and-a-half percent rollback experience on the renewal portion of what you’re trying to do.”
She said taxpayers will pay “a little bit less” by doing a renewal with increase as opposed to a replacement because rollbacks will be preserved.
“If you are serious about this, you need to sell it,” Weaver said. “You need to be available to your voters and let them know why this is important to you and whatever promotional efforts are vital and important to that.”
Orcena said he hasn’t heard a negative reaction to the levy options from the voters yet. However, he said the UCHD has to do “everything possible” to get it passed the first time.
“With a lot of the townships, I was expecting to have a harder visit because they’re often more critical of a community out there, but I haven’t had a negative visit with a township… and that was really encouraging,” Orcena said. “But I still tend to view it as an uphill climb and be pessimistic because that forces us to work that much harder to make sure. I don’t think we can take anything for granted.”
Orcena said the next step in the process is to send the levy to the Union County Commissioners for submission to be placed on the ballot for the November elections. He said it should be sent no later than the June board meeting.
Also at the meeting, Orcena said the UCHD has been talking to the lowest bidder in the health department renovation project about lowering their costs.
He said the company has offered two bid options for the UCHD to take.
The department can choose the option of just renovating the “critical parts” of the department and board of elections spaces, without consideration for the Community Health Center moving in.
Or, there’s the option of bringing the Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) into the department’s space. However, this would result in “more reconstruction.”
“In our first meeting with them, that piece really seems to be driving the cost,” Orcena said. “We will get a bid back that really highlights what the expense is and what the health department needs.”
He said he’ll be communicating the department’s needs and costs to the county commissioners and the FQHC soon.
The next UCHD board of health meeting will take place at 7:30 a.m. June 20 at the health department.



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