Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Single levy ballot discouraged

Portune: Some would fail if all nine are before voters

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A proposal to put all Hamilton County levies on the same ballot appears headed for the circular file - for now.

Commissioners Todd Portune and John Dowlin both suggested they were against the idea during a hearing Monday night that drew about 120 people. That leaves Commissioner Phil Heimlich without a second vote.

"I think the practical political reality of this is that you will have people go into the voting booth and they will prioritize," Portune said. He predicted that six of the nine special levies controlled by the commissioners would fail if they were all on one ballot. "We will have reduced property taxes, no doubt about it. But is that really what we want?"

Heimlich and County Auditor Dusty Rhodes proposed last week that the nine levies - which support everything from children's services to the zoo - run on a single ballot beginning in 2008.

"We think it gives voters the whole picture instead of just part of the picture," Heimlich said at the hearing at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center.

Some taxpayers said the one-ballot idea might be a good way to get high taxes under control.

"Most of these services are not essential government services," Kevin D. Martin of Anderson Township said. "Because there are higher taxes here, higher taxes there, school levies don't pass. ... And now we have problems with our sewers - that money has to come from somewhere."

But the majority spoke against the Rhodes-Heimlich proposal Monday night, saying it'd be hard for voters to fully educate themselves, and important services could pay the price.

"You must give people a fair chance to understand each levy," said Mia Peterson of Hyde Park, who has Down syndrome.

The countywide levies passed by voters currently cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $350 a year, said political consultant Al Tuchfarber, an opponent of the one-ballot proposal.

The idea may not go anywhere this year, but the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes promised to keep it alive by making support or opposition a "litmus test" in next year's county races. Portune, a Democrat, and Dowlin, a Republican, are both up for re-election.

E-mail candrews@enquirer.com

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