Mental health levy may be increased

Saturday, August 8, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hamilton County commissioners seem inclined to override the recommendation of a tax levy board and boost the amount on November's ballot for the Community Mental Health Board levy.

The board had originally proposed $28.2 million a year -- an increase of 41 percent over its current property tax levy. The levy expires at the end of this year and is up for renewal.

A tax levy review board, which researches levy requests on behalf of county commissioners, knocked the amount down to $26.4 million last month.

Patrick Tribbe, executive director of the mental health board, vowed to fight the recommendation and is talking about a compromise of $27.2 million. He shaved $1 million from a reserve fund.

"At that point, I could still maintain the service levels I had projected at $28.2 million," Mr. Tribbe said.

The mental health board channels money to more than 50 local agencies that serve about 18,000 people each year who cannot afford to pay.

Mr. Tribbe meets with county commissioners Monday morning. "I'm pretty inclined to listen to his perspective," Commissioner Tom Neyer Jr. said Friday.

Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus said, "I'm open-minded. The mental health board is doing a good job, and I have an awful lot of confidence in Pat Tribbe."

The third commissioner, John Dowlin, is out of town.

Commissioners are reluctant to overturn the tax levy committee's recommendation, however.

Mr. Bedinghaus pointed out that this will be only the second time commissioners have overridden a committee recommendation, if that is the conclusion on Monday.

Mr. Tribbe's new reserve fund formula is information the tax levy board did not have, Mr. Neyer said. Also, the levy on November's ballot would be for four years, instead of a more standard five, he said, which gives commissioners added control.

Commissioners plan to start the process of writing a performance contract with the mental health board on Monday, too.

The current tax levy, which raises $20 million a year, costs the owner of a $100,000 home $36.60 in property taxes annually. The tax rate per home has not been calculated for the proposed new levy.

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