The Lucas County Mental Health Board will ask voters to approve a 0.5-mill levy on Nov. 2. With the board's caseload among the mentally ill steadily increasing, the board works hard to meet a growing demand for services provided by the 19 agencies it supports. That's why we urge a vote FOR Issue 38.
In its goal to remain fiscally responsible, the board is seeking a 0.5-mill, 10-year levy, and like Issue 39 for senior citizens, Issue 38 is a replacement. That will generate an additional $1.9 million more a year and will help the board protect a $4 million fund balance.
As it is, the board is already deficit spending to try to keep the system afloat. It cannot keep doing that, which is why it is going to voters a year early. The current levy initially passed in 1985; it's not due to expire until the end of 2005. If voters approve Issue 38, the new levy would supersede it.
A replacement levy lets the board collect on current property valuations, whereas a renewal would allow it to collect only on valuations in place when it first passed. The mental health board also has a 1-mill operating levy that generates around $6.7 million annually. That levy continues until 2008.
Issue 38 would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $15.31 annually. That isn't much to ask the public for when funds the board funnels to mental health agencies provided services for almost 15,000 people in fiscal 2004. In 2000, the board served just under 12,000 people.
Many people still cling to a stigma about mental illness, but it is a disease, and a treatable one, and Lucas County residents have been good about wanting to help. We are mindful of the collective burden of taxes in this area, but we are hopeful the voters will remember that caring for these individuals is what a civilized society does.
State funding to the mental health board has not increased for several years, so the board is to be commended for trying to meet the increasing need with fairly static resources.
Part of its mission is to improve the quality of life by providing quality mental health services.
Because the Lucas County Mental Health Board seems to be doing that well, we recommend voters approve Issue 38.