Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Butler levies: Support strong for health, social care funding

By John Kiesewetter
Enquirer staff writer

HAMILTON - Butler County voters were approving funds for two countywide levies to support mental health, mental retardation and developmental disability services in early, unofficial returns Tuesday.

The renewal of an 0.5-mill mental health levy for 10 years was leading, 67 percent to 33 percent, with 34 percent of the 289 precincts reporting. A new 1-mill replacement levy for mental retardation programs was leading 61 percent to 39 percent with 34 percent of the precincts reporting unofficial returns.

Although county officials do not like to have competing health or social services levies on the same ballot, the situation was unavoidable because levies for both agencies were expiring. In March, voters for the seventh time since 1988 rejected a mental health tax issue.

Having both issues on the ballot did not concern Nancy Lakamp, 44of Fairfield Township:

"Mental health keeps us all strong, not just those affected by it, but the whole community. I voted for the mental retardation levy because I have a son who has Down syndrome. If he loses his programs, he loses his tools for learning. I don't think there's a reason not to vote for them."

The mental health tax was a renewal of a 1985 levy, which had been renewed in 1994. It generates $2 million annually. The owner of a $100,000 home would continue to pay $7.47 per year.

If it failed again, programs could be cut for about 2,000 of the 8,500 people served by the Butler County Mental Health Board, said John Staup, director.

Mental retardation officials had to go to voters because two 0.5-mill levies expired last year. The new 1-mill levy would raise about $7.1 million annually, twice the amount of the expiring levies based on 1976 and 1984 valuations, said Jim Mueller, executive director of the Butler County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmentally Disabled

The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $30.62 a year, an increase of about $20 over the two old levies.


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