Chau Nguyen

Butler County’s Children Services Board is asking voters for help in its mission to protect children and preserve families by passing a replacement tax levy in the March 4 primary.

The levy calls for a rate of two mills for every dollar paid over a period of five years and will benefit Butler County Children Services (BCCS).

According to Denise Winkler, the director of public relations at the BCCS, the agency provides federal and state mandated services, such as investigating allegations of neglect or abuse, finding placement for children who are abused or neglected and recruiting foster parents.

Without funding from the levy, which would provide 60 percent of the agency’s funding, Winkler said the BCCS would have to cut services dramatically.

“We would have to cut staff and cut all non-mandated services, such as mental health and substance abuse services,” she said. “Right now, we assist the family in getting drug and alcohol treatment, but if we didn’t have the levy, those services would have to go because they aren’t mandated.”

According to Dennis Sullivan, a Miami University economics professor, the proposed levy would mean $2 for every $1,000 worth of property.

“It’s not a very big levy,” Sullivan said. “If you have a $100,000 house, that would mean $200 a year.”

Winkler said the agency is currently operating on a similar two mills, five-year levy set to expire this November, prompting a renewal or replacement of the previous levy.

According to Winkler, the proposed levy would take into consideration the current property tax values at the time the levy is passed. For subsequent years, homeowners would be expected to pay the same amount over the five-year span and the amount will not be affected by rising property values.

“A renewal means we want the same amount of money,” Winkler said. “The millage remains the same, but the amount of money we collect will be based on the current property tax values.”

Although Winkler acknowledges there will be a slight increase in payment due to the rise of property values, she said the difference is minimal.

“If your home is valued at $100,000, (the replacement) levy would cost you $5.08 more per year than you would be paying for the current levy,” Winkler said.

According to Sullivan, the issue surrounding the levy is not the cost of funding the agency but the means of collecting that funding from Butler County residents.

Since the levy is based on property taxes, Sullivan believes farmers and business owners will be most affected by the levy.

“There are a lot of farmers in Butler County,” Sullivan said. “They might not be making a lot of money, but they would be paying a lot (for the BCCS) because their property value is high.”

Besides the question regarding whether property taxes should be used for funding, Sullivan also said the fact the levy is earmarked for the BCCS-meaning funds from the levy can only be spent for that purpose-contributes to the debate.

While other agencies, such as the sheriff’s department, are funded through the county treasury, Sullivan said the levy set on an earmarked level prohibits the county from redistributing the funds for other purposes.

“The problem is pretty inflamed so it could lead to the defeat of this levy,” Sullivan said.

Even so, Winkler is optimistic regarding the result of the levy, citing a poll where community members said they were in favor of passing the levy.

Should the levy not pass in the March 4 primary, Winkler believes it will be placed back on the ballot for the November elections.

Sullivan-who both works and lives in Butler County-said he would support the levy.

“I would personally vote for the levy because we have problems with children services in the county,” Sullivan said, “but I sympathize with the people who view the earmark levy as an inappropriate way to fund it.”