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Hamilton County Voters Likely To Decide At Least Two Tax Levies On November Ballot

John Minchillo

Hamilton County voters could see a couple of renewal property tax levies on the November ballot.
The Hamilton County Tax Levy Review Committee (TLRC) is recommending county commissioners place a renewal levy on the November ballot for developmental disabilities services.  

The levy would remain flat at 4.13 mills and raise about $366.4 million during a five-year period.  

TLRC member Jenny O'Donnell said the agency could have a number of new clients because of changes to Ohio's Medicaid program a couple of years ago. Assessments are ongoing for those who've been on a waiting list and that work will continue through the end of 2020.

"DDS is in the position right now that they're trying to evaluate some number of 2,500 people to see if they're going to be eligible for this waiver," O'Donnell said. "And this benefit is such an unknown that it is causing a lot of chaos in DDS in budgeting going forward."

Medicaid would cover 60% of the costs of those eligible for services, and county funds would be needed to cover the rest.

Right now DDS provides services to about 7,800 children and adults with developmental disabilities in the county.  That includes case management, infant therapy, family support, housing support, funding and benefit assistance, and the operation of two schools.
The review committee is also recommending commissioners place a 0.34 mills renewal levy for family services and treatment on the November ballot.  

It would continue to raise about $6 million a year to provide treatment for individuals in the criminal justice system related to alcohol and drug use.  

TLRC member Jeanette Hargreaves said the committee would like to see more focus on prevention.

"The agencies are doing a great job at treatment, but there just seems to be a lack of funds flowing to prevention services," Hargreaves said. "So the one recommendation the committee did have is if we could increase funding anywhere it would be to those services of prevention first."

That might be difficult since the amount of money collected will remain steady while expenses for programs under the levy continue to increase.

TLRC Chairwoman Gwen McFarlin praised the work of committee members reviewing the two levy requests.

"The purpose of this TLRC is to challenge agencies who spend the taxpayers money to be creative, innovative, and to provide the best and most cost-effective services as possible," McFarlin said.

County commissioners have until Aug. 7 to send resolutions to the board of elections asking that levies be on the November ballot.

The commissioners are expected to hold one or two public hearings before making a final decision.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.