Highland County voters unofficially voted against two levies in a special election Tuesday, May 7, with a third levy subject to a recount.

The lone countywide issue for the Highland County Health Department failed by a 859-635 margin, unofficially. In the Bright Local School District, an additional tax levy for the schools also failed by an unofficial 202-99 margin, and votes for the Village of Greenfield’s proposed municipal income tax renewal were split at 76 votes for and 76 votes against the levy, unofficially.

 


The countywide voter turnout was 5.7 percent, with 1,494 ballots cast out of 26,198 registered voters.

The Highland County Health Department’s proposed levy also failed on the Nov. 6, 2018 ballot. As previously reported in The Highland County Press, the Board of Health decided at its January 2019 meeting to place a .5-mill replacement levy for the Highland County Health Department on the primary ballot.

Last November in the general election, the proposed replacement levy was one of voters' closest decisions, as the levy failed by just 72 votes countywide (6,697 against the levy, 6,625 for the levy).

The current levy was passed in 1989 and has funded at that same rate since its passage. Through the current levy, a property valued at $100,000 brings $6.16 annually to the department.

"The board has decided to place the levy on the May 7 ballot at a cost of $11,000 to $12,000," Warner said at the Highland County commissioners’ Jan. 23 meeting. "It's a lot of money, and we don't like having to do it. But without the levy, we're not able to do our jobs and provide services at the Health Department. A levy that was passed 30 years ago doesn't fund things like it used to.

"The reality is if we lose the levy, there will be a lot of things we do now that we won't be able to do."

Another issue which failed in November 2018 was a 3-mill additional tax levy for Bright Local Schools for general permanent improvements “for a continuing period of time,” which failed 997-710 in Highland County. The issue which failed Tuesday would have been for the same millage but was presented as a five-year levy.

Bright Local superintendent Ted Downing said the primary purposes of the levy would have been to maintain facilities, to purchase buses (four buses have more than 250,000 miles), keep the building technology current, safety and security and additional parking at both buildings.

The undecided issue on the ballot is a 0.125-percent income tax levy commencing Oct. 1, which affects the village of Greenfield. According to Greenfield City Manager Todd Wilkin, this levy would not be an additional tax on Greenfield citizens and instead would be a continuation of a similar levy that was passed decades ago.

“I believe it was in 1998, Greenfield council decided that they wanted to restore the City Hall building,” Wilkin said. “In 1998, they put it on the ballot to place a one-eighth percent tax, and voters of Greenfield voted for it. This has been in place since 1998 and has always gone directly in a City Hall restoration fund.

“On average, it probably brings in $100,000 a year in taxes.”

Wilkin said that the village needed to put this issue on the May ballot because the tax is set to expire in October. If approved by voters again, Wilkin said the funds would continue to be used to maintain the historic City Hall building, with remaining funds used for economic development.

“The gist of the levy is this – if the levy generates $100,000 in revenue, $75,000 would go toward the maintenance of our building to maintain what has already been restored,” Wilkin said in a letter to The Highland County Press. “The remaining $25,000 will be directed toward economic development, but specifically designated for implementing the economic development plan that city council unanimously passed last year.”

Check back to highlandcountypress.com for more updates.