PREBLE COUNTY — A recent health levy brought forth by Preble County General Health District failed certification for the May primaries after discovery of a “fatal error” by the Preble County Board of Elections.
The tax levy, which was a 0.6 mil replacement with an increase, was certified by Preble County Auditor Lavon Wright after a meeting on Monday, Feb. 1. The Preble County Board of Commissioners then noted receipt of the levy on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 3, before the deadline later in the day to get issues on the May ballot.
A letter was sent by the Board of Elections on Wednesday, Feb. 17, to the Board of Commissioners stating that the tax levy was not certified because, “The resolution failed to provide the extent of any increase expressed in mills as required by the Ohio Revised Code Section 5705.192 (B).”
According to the ORC Section 5705.192 (B), “The resolution proposing a replacement levy shall specify the purpose of the levy; its proposed rate expressed in mills; whether the proposed rate is the same as the rate of the existing levy, a reduction, or an increase; the extent of any reduction or increase expressed in mills; the first calendar year in which the levy will be due; and the term of the levy, expressed in years or, if applicable, that it will be levied for a continuing period of time.”
During the Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 24, the board unanimously noted receipt of and signed the letter from the Board of Elections, and Commission Clerk Julie Miller provided an explanation as to why the verbiage did not pass certification.
Miller said the amount that had been certified by Wright was sent to the Prosecutor’s Office as requested by the Board of Elections, and the Prosecutor’s Office then approved the verbiage to be put on the ballot.
“Apparently, it came after the fact that the verbiage needed extra written out,” she said. “So for our office, we did go check several different offices. It was just an error all the way around. It wasn’t like a ‘point fingers’ type thing. We didn’t know.”
In a statement to The Register-Herald, Preble County Health Commissioner Erik Balster said they are disappointed that the levy will not be on the ballot in May.
“Even before COVID-19, our resources have been stretched thin due to increasing costs to operate and an evolving public health landscape. Replacing and adding to this levy would have helped ensure continuity of services, as well as address the health department’s dated and meager budget with a modern financial foundation,” he said. “Our plan is to take another shot at either renewing or replacing this levy in the fall. Until then, we are going to continue to work on the COVID-19 response in Preble County and try to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible.”
According to Wright during the meeting on Feb. 1, Balster stated the health department would need $600,000 to have a “sustainable” budget.
The most recently renewed levy only brings in $72,000, according to officials, due to foreclosures and other issues.
Balster stated during the meeting that the health department was not looking for raises with the tax levy.
“I will say we haven’t had a cost of living [increase] for any employees since 2016, so they’ve all been at that same rate,” he said. “I think generally, any business tries to at least account in their budget for a cost of living, at a minimum, when possible. And I don’t anticipate not looking at that in the future, whether it be this year, next year — when it’s possible. I can only lose so many employees because they will be paid more picking up garbage than, you know, giving people shots. We’re not going to give anyone exorbitant raises.”
The letter sent by Preble County Board of Elections Director Terri Hans to the Preble County Board of Commissioners can be read in full below:
The Preble County Board of Elections met on February 11, 2021 to certify submitted Questions and Issues to the May 4, 2021 Primary/Special Election ballot. The resolution declaring it necessary to levy a tax in excess of the ten-mil limitation for the benefit of the Preble County General Health District that you presented to the Board of Elections was not certified to the 2021 Primary/Special Election ballot due to a fatal error. The resolution failed to provide the extent of any increase expressed in mills as required by the Ohio Revised Code Section 5705.192 (B).
The Preble County General Health District may place the issue on the November 2, 2021 General Election ballot. The deadline to submit a resolution for the 2021 General Election is Wednesday, August 4, 2021 by 4:00 p.m.
Please contact our office if you have any questions or concerns.”
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles