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Mental health board wants to seek renewal in November

Star Beacon - 5/29/2019

May 29-- May 29--JEFFERSON -- The Ashtabula County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board is getting a head start planning for a renewal levy.

During a Tuesday meeting with the Ashtabula County Board of Commissioners, MHRS Executive Director Miriam Walton said she would like to approach voters in November with a renewal levy. Renewal levies do not result in a tax increase.

November is the first time the board can seek the renewal of a five-year, 0.6-mill levy that generates more than $1 million annually. Walton said the board historically seeks renewals at their first available opportunity so that if a levy is voted down they can try again on the next ballot.

For this renewal levy, the board can first try in November, and then again in March or November of 2020 if the renewal were voted down.

The money generated through the levy is primarily used to provide matching funds for various grants that aid in behavioral and mental health services provided through other agencies such as the family and adult drug courts and adult probation departments, Walton said.

The levy money has also been instrumental in various public awareness campaigns regarding addiction and substance abuse.

"This is a big portion of our budget that allows us to bring in additional grant dollars," Walton said.

Commissioner Casey Kozlowski said he would first like to see what other agencies might seek levies in November before deciding on whether the MHRS levy will be placed on the November ballot.

Though Kozlowski said he is fully supportive of the levy, commissioners need to decide which election is best for the board to first place something before voters.

Other agencies that might seek levies in November are the commissioners for the new jail project and the Ashtabula CountyBoard of Developmental Disabilities.

"I want to ponder this for a little bit because it is my understanding there will be other requests coming our way," Kozlowski said.

Commissioner Kathryn Whittington said she also supports the MHRS levy and everything the board does.

"It's just a matter of when are we going to put your levy on," she said.

The levy that will be up for renewal was first passed by voters as a replacement levy in 2014. Walton said she is hopeful the public will understand the need and approve a renewal when the time comes.

Voters were supportive of the replacement last time around and she hopes they will now support the renewal.

"We hadn't had a replacement in about 40 years and when it passed we went from collecting about $650,000 a year up to more than $1 million," Walton said.

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(c)2019 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio)

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