Bellefontaine Examiner

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Passage of 0.75-mill operating levy would relieve funding requirement for townships, municipalities

Voters in the county will have the opportunity to determine how the Logan County Health District will be funded in the upcoming years, as the agency has proposed a 10-year 0.75-mill operating levy that appears on Tuesday’s ballot.

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The issue would raise about $750,000 per year to support programming and personnel, and would cost the owner of a $100,000 property about $24 per year.

In recent years, LCHD officials have made a number of budget cuts to staff, programs and education initiatives following the failure of several levies in 2007 and 2008. At that time, voters turned down attempts to replace a 1-mill levy that expired at the end of 2008.

So beginning in 2009, the agency has been funded each year by $500,000 in inside millage appropriated through the county budget commission, in accordance with Ohio Revised Code requirements.

Each of the townships and municipalities in Logan County currently contributes toward this inside millage total based on a percentage of its assessed real estate value (see chart).

However, if the new levy request is approved, the health district no longer will utilize inside millage, giving the townships and municipalities a break, agency officials said.

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MAY 7, 2013

“We would forgo the $500,000 in inside millage, and then wouldn’t be taking funds from the townships and municipalities,” Logan County District Board of Health President Don Spath said at a recent meeting.

Currently, some of the larger county entities, the city of Bellefontaine and Stokes Township, are paying approximately $101,400 and $74,900, respectively, to fund the health district each year.

Looking at some of the smaller townships and municipalities, Bloomfield Township and Zanesfield are paying approximately $6,000 and $1,300 per year, respectively.

Bellefontaine Mayor Adam Brannon, also the LCHD Advisory Council chairman, said contributing toward the inside millage for the health district has constricted the city’s budget.

“We could put a few more police officers on the road for that amount, he said at a district advisory council meeting.

“And looking at the other municipalities and townships, it’s also a big part of their budgets percentage-wise. It makes a good-sized dent in everyone’s budget.”

Approval of the LCHD levy would also provide new opportunities for the agency, including the hiring of a part-time professional to help with a new accreditation requirement for health districts that begins in 2018.

Without this accreditation, the health district would no longer be eligible to receive grant funding, which makes up about $300,000 of its current budget, Health Commissioner Dr. Boyd Hoddinott said.

“We need to start getting ready for this accreditation process now. The levy is so important for this reason.”

The additional funds also would be used to upgrade nursing salaries to make them more equitable, as the agency currently loses many nursing staff members to higher-paying jobs elsewhere.

“We’ve lost a number of nurses in the past several years as a result of our low wages,” Dr. Hoddinott said. “Then we have to hire new nurses, and it costs us tens of thousands of dollars to train them.”

Also within the nursing division, levy monies would provide for the hiring of a full-time immunizations clerk to assist with the high demand for immunizations in the office.

“A number of other medical offices in the county are no longer doing immunizations, so we have been overwhelmed with immunizations at the health district,” Dr. Hoddinott said. “Right now our nursing director is run nearly off her feet.”

Another way levy funding would be utilized is to reinstate a public health educator position that was lost with the budget reductions several years ago.  

“Education is a public health mandate; it’s a critical piece, and we’re not able to do a lot with our educational programs,” the health commissioner said. “We can’t be out at the schools as much as we used to.”

Educational efforts that the health commissioner would like to implement include a Norovirus prevention initiative and also a concussion program in the area schools in line with new requirements for coaches and referees, which were detailed in Thursday’s Examiner.

Norovirus, commonly known as stomach flu, is highly contagious and results in much lost time and money at area businesses and schools. Providing information about the spread of the illness could help curb the prevalence of the illness, Dr. Hoddinott said.

As for the new concussion training, the health district would like to supply additional information to coaches and referees who are now required to complete online courses regarding concussion awareness.

Levy monies also would be pledged to abate blighted properties in Logan County, as about $20,000 designated for this purpose was removed from the budget with the loss of the previous levies.

Overall, the passage of the levy would help to improve various aspects of public health in the area, the health commissioner said.

“With each of these different initiatives, we could really help out the county and improve the health of our residents.”

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