Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Health levy's price hidden

Cost to be nearly double - or more

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Generating 36 percent more in tax revenue to provide health care to the poor will cost Hamilton County homeowners at least 56 percent more than last year.

        The reason is the county's complicated tax method.

        If the health and hospitalization levy is placed on the ballot as a renewal of the current amount plus an increase, taxpayers will have to spend 56 percent more to generate the 36 percent increase.

        It would be even more costly if commissioners place the levy on the ballot as a replacement tax. Under that scenario, the cost to homeowners would increase 95 percent.

        That's the message in a letter Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes sent to the three county commissioners Tuesday. The tax now costs owners of a $100,000 home about $50 a year.

        “It's very complicated and easy to misunderstand what's going on,” Mr. Rhodes said. “I'm not taking a stand on any of this. I'm just providing information.”

        Commissioners have until Thursday to decide the amount and the type of levy, and place it on the May ballot.

        “My guess is that it's still an open question on whether this is a straight renewal or a renewal with an increase,” Commissioner Todd Portune said.

        Mr. Portune is going to suggest today that interest earned from special levies be placed back into the levy fund rather than being diverted to the county's general fund. He said Mr. Rhodes' letter is all the more reason to keep levy interest “at home.”

        Commissioners also are considering a replacement levy for children's services.


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