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Commissioners vote to keep levy rates flat

(photo by Tana Weingartner)

Renewal levies for Hamilton County senior services and mental health will stay at their current millage rates for a five-year period, meaning reduced funding for the agencies that rely on them.  Commissioners approved both levies today for November's ballot. 

Board president Greg Hartmann acknowledged it would be a challenge for levy recipients, but said it was important to hold the line on property taxes when many county homeowners were facing tough economic decisions. 

Commissioner Chris Monzel called it the right direction to go:

"Especially given this economic climate that we're in.  People keep saying it's just $5.  For some folks, $5 is a lot of money, especially seniors who are on a limited income or making decisions about whether to get medication or whether to get food.  I think every cent we can give back to them is very important."

Commissioner Todd Portune offered an alternative to keep the levies' funding level by increasing the tax rates, which failed.  He ended up supporting keeping the millages flat, saying it would be  far worse if voters rejected either of the levies:

"That's a major reason why I, after offering the substitute resolutions, voted in favor of the resolutions before us; and I encourage everyone who's here to actively get out there and hit the pavement and support adoption of these measures."

Because property values have declined, the mental health levy will bring in $17 million less.  Senior services will see a drop of $7 million.  Agencies affected are willing to work with what the commissioners approved.

"As the commissioners indicated, it's put on the ballot at this point and we move forward to work with them to make sure the money that's available produces the best results for our clients," said Pat Tribbe, president and CEO of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.