Butler County parks, mental health levies pass

While many people arrived at polls Tuesday focused on the presidential primary, there were also several local tax issues to be decided.

"Levies always bring voters out," said Jocelyn Bucaro, Butler County elections board's deputy director.

Voters considered a renewal mental health levy and a renewal and increase levy for MetroParks as well as an operating levy that failed last November in St. Clair Twp.

MetroParks of Butler County/Issue 6

MetroParks of Butler County’s six-year levy that included an 0.5-mill renewal and 0.2-mill increase passed by a vote of 65.6 percent for to 34.5 percent against, according to final, unofficial results from the Butler County Board of Elections.

“On behalf of the Board of Park Commissioners, volunteers and staff, MetroParks is pleased that the countywide park system will be able to continue to serve our customer/owners, the taxpayers, of Butler County in the same fashion they have come to expect,” said Jonathan Granville, MetroParks executive director.

The levy revenues will go toward operating costs as well as to make future improvements within the park system’s 4,500 acres of land across the county.

The new levies will go into effect in 2017 and will cost a property owners an additional $9.19 a year for a total of $24.50 from the current amount being paid, according to the Butler County Auditor’s Office per $100,000 of valuation. The new levy would generate about $5.16 million a year for the park district, up from the current $3.4 million.

“The funding will be used to keep the parks open, clean and safe,” said Kelly Barkley, MetroParks senior manager of community relations. “In addition, when the parks are open, they are a real asset to the county.”

The Butler County Visitors Bureau estimated that the events at MetroParks facilities provide a direct economic impact of nearly $4 million and about $13 million in overall economic impact to the county.

Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services/Issue 5

The Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services board made an effort to curtail the continuing shrinking reductions in state funding to address the needs of an expanding clientele seeking mental health services. Voters approved the five-year, 1-mill renewal levy by a vote of 71.8 percent to 28.2 percent, according to final, unofficial results from the Butler County Board of Elections.

The approval of the renewal levy means there are no new taxes as the owner of a $100,000 house will continue to pay about $31 annually. In addition, the approval means the mental health board will avoid negative fund balances before the end of 2017, officials say.

“We really appreciate the residents of Butler County for supporting us again,” said Executive Director Scott Rasmus. “This vote emphasizes that mental health is very important and we are there to help.”

The number of Butler County residents needing mental health services has doubled to 10,500 in the past decade, agency officials said. Meanwhile, state funding dropped from 30 percent in 2007 through 2011 to about 11 percent, they said.

The Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board relies on two mental health levies to provide 85 percent of its funding: the 0.5-mill levy first passed in 1985 and renewed in 2014 by 71 percent of voters; and the levy up for renewal on the March 15 ballot, which was approved in 2006.

St. Clair Twp./Issue 3

Voters in St. Clair Twp. once again rejected a 1-mill additional operating levy by a vote of 62.4 percent against to 37.6 percent for, according to final, unofficial results from the Butler County Board of Elections.

Had the levy passed, it that would have generated $109,309 a year for township services at a cost of $35 for the owner of a $100,000 home.

St. Clair Twp. officials was looking to bolster its budget in the wake of state funding cuts, officials said. Officials have said in the past they have lost about 40 percent of those funds for the township’s general fund budget because of the state cuts implemented since John Kasich became governor in 2011.

Through its operating levy, the township pays for items like fire and emergency medical service, as well as smaller quality of life amenities, like garbage removal. They also take care of the snow removal, paving, park and cemetery maintenance, road repairs, zoning, brush removal and an annual river clean up program from levy revenues.

Voters last November also rejected the 1-mill levy.