Thursday, April 20, 2000

County considers $10M refund for taxpayers

Bedinghaus: Some levy money not needed

BY Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For the second time in two years, Hamilton County commissioners are considering returning to taxpayers $10 million in chil dren's services levy money they say the county doesn't need.

        “We can do the job with less, so it is only fair that the money be returned,” said County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus.

        Mr. Bedinghaus said the county should be able to cut the children's services tax because the Hamilton County Human Services Department has been “very successful” in attracting state and federal dollars to its children's services programs in recent years.

        Also, Mr. Bedinghaus said, the “onslaught of cocaine abuse” among children has not been nearly as great as had been expected four years ago when the levy was passed by voters, allowing the county to spend far less on prevention and treatment programs.

        In March 1998, the commis sioners cut the children's services tax by $10 million — a cut that was passed on to property owners in this year's tax bills.

        The 1996 levy passed by voters nearly doubled the collection of local tax dollars for children's services to $39 million. At the time, officials said the needs were increasing — the total number of children in protective care had shot up from 9,800 to 19,700 in a decade.

        Mr. Bedinghaus said that Human Services officials will be invited to Monday's staff meeting of the county commissioners to discuss the new tax cut.

        If commissioners decide to cut the tax, it must be approved by the county budget commission.

        Commissioner John Dowlin — who, like Mr. Bedinghaus, is running for re-election this year — said Wednesday he thinks the commissioners can offer taxpayers another children's services tax cut, but suggested that the county administration look at the county's other levy funds to see if there are other tax cuts that could be made.

        “We should be looking at the cash flow in all of these funds and seeing if there is a chance we can do with less,” Mr. Dowlin said.


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