Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Mental health levy failing in Butler Co.



By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COMPLETE COVERAGE
Cincinnati.com Special Election Coverage
HAMILTON - The tax levy to restore nearly $3 million in Butler County Mental Health service cuts was being rejected by voters Tuesday.

The new half-mill levy, to raise $3.5 million in each of the next five years, would have restored programs eliminated in the last three years.

However, 55 percent of county voters were voting no, with 67 percent of precincts reporting unofficial returns.

A year ago, the mental health board eliminated all subsidy support for people not eligible for Medicaid, says John Staup, Butler County Mental Health Board executive director. The budget cuts eliminated half - or about 5,000 - of children and adults from outpatient counseling programs, he says.

Board members now must face some tough choices, as the clock winds down on the 10-year mental health levy - the board's main income source, which expires in December 2005.

If they try another levy in November, it may go head-to-head with a tax levy for the Butler County Mental Retardation Board, which has two 10-year levies expiring this December.

Hamilton voters also were rejecting a half-mill tax to fund The Shuttle bus service, with 69 percent voting no with 73 percent of precincts reporting unofficial returns.

A defeat of the five-year tax levy likely means the transit service will cease operating by October, when the city's one-year contract expires with the Butler County Regional Transit Authority, said Carla Lakatos, transit director.

E-mail jkiesewetter@enquirer.com




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