Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Children Services levy OK'd

But West Chester Twp. rejects tax for parks

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Butler County Children Services' 2-mill replacement levy, critical for the agency's ability to maintain services, barely passed late Tuesday. With all precincts counted, the vote was 51 percent in favor and 49 percent against in unofficial results.

With the levy, Butler County Children Services will:
 Enhance domestic violence support for victims and children
 Expand mental health treatment for children with major psychiatric illnesses.
 Improve mediation for child-custody disputes.
 Develop more child-abuse prevention programs with schools and law enforcement agencies.
Passage of the levy means that the agency won't have to lay off about 35 of its 150 employees and reduce services.

Children Services will be able to continue existing services and restore some of the services that were cut when the agency slashed $5 million from its budget earlier this year.

The five-year levy, which will replace the 2-mill levy that expires at the end of 2004, will generate $6 million a year more in revenue for Children Services, an agency that protects abused, neglected and dependent children.

It will raise property taxes because it would be based on current, higher values. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $29 a year more in taxes.

For the past three years, Children Services has been undergoing major reforms in its policies and practices. The changes were designed to make the agency more accountable and open.

Before the reforms started, Children Services had been embroiled in controversy. Critics said the agency too often removed children without solid reasons, sent children to out-of-county foster homes and treated families and the general public in an insensitive manner.

West Chester Township's 1.95-mill levy increase for park improvements was losing badly, 58 percent against to 42 percent in favor, with 73 percent of the precincts counted. If it had passed, an owner of a $100,000 house would have had to pay $59 more per year in taxes.

Financially strapped Monroe's half-percent income tax increase was rejected by voters, 55 percent to 45 percent, in complete, unofficial returns. The levy was placed on the ballot to avoid a $1 million deficit for next year.


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