Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Hospital tax leading despite opposition


Heimlich alleged cash mismanaged

By Cindi Andrews
Enquirer staff writer

A levy for the Drake Center Inc. appeared headed toward passage Tuesday night despite a contentious campaign.

The $80 million, five-year levy was up 53 percent to 47 percent, with 63 percent of the county's 1,013 precincts reporting. About $68 million of the levy money was expected to go to Drake, with the rest going to county drug treatment-related programs.

"If something happened to a family member, we're lucky to have a place like that to take care of them," Julie Brabender, 30, of Norwood said after voting from the levy.

Joseph Steger, chairman of Drake's board of trustees, had said the hospital might either have to close or cut services if the levy failed. The current levy expires in December, although the hospital has about $35 million in its reserve fund.

Drake has come under fire in recent months from Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich and others who felt the hospital wasn't managing its money properly.

The levy results seemed to vindicate the hospital leadership.

"I'm just feeling grateful that the voters of Hamilton County appreciate the good work we do at Drake," CEO Roberta Bradford said Tuesday night.

An independent consultant hired by the county concluded that Drake spends too much money on its staff and that other health care facilities could provide the same services at no cost to taxpayers - both charges disputed by Drake.

"It's a wonderful place, but I just couldn't support it," said voter Roxanne Wagner, 33, of Price Hill, who broke from past practice to vote against Drake. "I'm not sure they're spending their money as wisely as they can."

Drake had asked for a 39 percent increase in its funding, but instead the proposed levy the county commissioners agreed to put on Tuesday's ballot will cut funding by almost a third.

"We're very much looking at our costs and how we can make up that deficit," Bradford said.

New questions about Drake's spending have arisen in the past two weeks.

The county prosecutor's office is investigating whether it was illegal for Drake to use $204,000 from its reserve fund to pay for its last levy campaign and guarantee a loan of up to $500,000 for this campaign.

Levy money may not be used for campaigning, and County Administrator David Krings said Drake's reserve fund is a mix of levy and non-levy money.

Drake officials disagreed.

The levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $25 a year, up from about $24 a year.

E-mail candrews@enquirer.com

Drake levy




OHIO ELECTION RESULTS:
Ohio provisional ballots may decide presidential election
Voters repeal amendment on gay rights
Ohio Supreme Court: GOP's justices appear to be buttressing majority
Voinovich has no trouble winning 2nd Senate term
Sycamore levy passes; four others fail
Kerry effort falls short in Ohio
Ohio Republicans aim to maintain grip in House, Senate
Ohio election briefs
Ohio Issue 1 passes
Turnout heavy in suburbs
MU students hit the polls
HAMILTON CO. RACES
Cincinnati school levy passes
Hospital tax leading despite opposition
CLERMONT CO. RACES
Clermont County: Republicans remain choice in early count
Clermont County tax issues: Long lines delay counting
BUTLER CO. RACES
Fairfield levy passes
Butler commission: All incumbents being returned
Butler levies: Support strong for health, social care funding
Butler County Sheriff: Jones likely successor to Gabbard
WARREN CO. RACES
Heavy turnout, long lines delay vote count
Kings levy passes by slim margin
INDIANA RACES
Indiana governor: Daniels prevails after tough, costly slugfest
Ballot misprint may affect Ind. school board race

KENTUCKY ELECTION RESULTS:
LOCAL RACES
Alexandria: Voters stick with City Council's six incumbents
Bellevue City Council: Two incumbents losing seats with 4 of 5 precincts counted
Covington: Sanders and Stricker joining City Commission
Campbell County: Ward holds on to retain seat on Circuit Court
Florence City Council: One newcomer, five incumbents win seats
Independence: Four who opposed insurance tax win
Newport: Mayor, all four on council will be keeping their seats
Suburban schools: Campbell, other area boards get fresh faces
Villa Hills, Taylor Mill: Taxes to fix, replace city streets rejected
Urban schools: Newcomer ousts incumbent, snags Newport board seat
N. Ky. election briefs
STATE RACES
Popular president dominates Kentucky
Ky. Senate: Bunning wins - but race was close
Ky. House: This time around, Davis prevails
Issue One: Kentucky overwhelmingly says yes to no-gay-marriage
State's determined voters brave long lines, waits, rain
23rd Senate District: Westwood survives challenge by Groob
Ex-Gov. Carroll wins Frankfort seat
State Senate: Republican Thayer wins a full term in new seat
67th House District: Keene's win preserves spot for Democrats

IN THE TRISTATE
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Help Habitat by hiring yard rakers
Father inspired mission journey
Cone throw may bring legal action
Police dogs could get TV time at competition
Harrison man charged in auto fatals
Exhibit to spotlight 350 years of Judaism in America
Medal of Honor graves get special markers
Local news briefs
Neighbors news briefs

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
Good Things Happening

LIVES REMEMBERED
Gay Weber designed jet engines for GE

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Time of change in Crestview Hills
Waltz or swing, timid students learn to let go
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$545,000 grant to bolster Ky. health-care work force
N. Ky. news briefs
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N.Ky. schools' education guide available online
Murder counts filed in wreck that killed 2