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Stakes in Fulton County are high, but turnout forecasts are low

Fulton County has more tax requests on Tuesday's ballot than any other northwest Ohio county, but the county board of elections predicts only 34 percent of registered voters will cast a ballot - and that might be high.

“The spring election is always a bad showing,” said Gloria Marlatt, director of elections. “They just don't get out.”

She predicted 9,000 voters will go to the polls, but admitted that might be more of a goal than a true expectation - even though there are pocketbook issues on the ballot in all 36 precincts.

Of 15 tax requests in Fulton County, all but three would cost taxpayers more than they are billed now. Five are new requests and seven are for replacements, which unlike renewals increase the amount taxpayers are billed.

That's far more issues than most northwest Ohio counties have on the ballot. Huron County has the next highest number with 13 issues. Wood County has 12, Allen has nine and Lucas, Erie, and Hardin counties each have seven. Many area counties have four or less.

Fulton County's ballot is no record in the state though. Cuyahoga County - which encompasses Cleveland and its suburbs - has 74 issues on the ballot. However, 47 of them are gas aggregation and other questions that do not directly affect taxes.

In Fulton County, all county voters will see two Mental Retardation & Developmental Disabilities Board requests on their ballot.

One is a 2-mill, 5-year replacement levy for maintenance and operations that would cost the owners of a $100,000 home $63 a year - up from the $53 that they are billed now. If it passes, the board would collect $1.5 million a year, up from less than $1.4 million now.

The other is a 0.5-mill, 5-year additional levy for maintenance, operations, and renovations of facilities that would cost the owner of $100,000 home $15.75 a year. It would collect $386,000 a year for the board.

If both levies pass, the owners of such a home would be billed $26 a year than they are now.

The levies that would cost individual property owners the most are in the Gorham Fayette school district and Swanton village.

Gorham Fayette school board is asking for a 7-mill, 5-year additional levy that would raise $240,000 a year for operating expenses at a cost of about $235 a year to the owner of a home valued at $100,000. The treasurer has said the levy is needed to avoid a deficit in the fiscal year that begins in July, 2003.

Swanton village council is asking for a 0.5 percent, permanent additional income tax for capital improvements. A $40,000 wage-earner who lives and works in Swanton would pay an additional $200 a year under such a tax. There are no deductions for family members.

Faced with the most opportunities to check yes or no, however, will be residents of Metamora, Lyons, and Delta who will all see five money issues on their ballots. Two of the issues will be the county-wide Developmental Disabilities Board requests and the other three will be local.

Metamora residents will see:

w A 2.6-mill, 5-year renewal levy for current expenses in Metamora. It generates $12,875 a year at a cost of about $25 to the owner of a home valued at $100,000.

w A 1-mill, 5-year renewal levy for fire protection in Amboy Township. It generates $22,375 a year at a cost of almost $19 to the owner of a home valued at $100,000.

w An Evergreen schools combination 1.15-mill, 23-year, $2.2-million bond issue for elementary school construction and renovation of the old high school and 0.5-mill, 23-year levy for maintenance. With promised rollbacks from the school board, the owner of a $100,000 home would be billed an additional $20 a year in real estate taxes.

Lyons residents will see:

w A 0.5-mill, 5-year replacement levy for parks and recreation in Lyons. The recreation levy costs the homeowner $6 a year and provides the village $1,275. If it passes, $100,000 homeowners would be billed almost $16 and the village would collect $2,800 a year.

w A 4.1-mill, 5-year replacement levy for operating expenses in the village. The levy, which has been renewed for decades and never replaced, is collecting at 1.57 mills, producing $10,440 a year for the village at a cost of $50 to the owner of a $100,000 home. If the replacement passes, the village would reap $22,900 a year and the owner of such a home would be billed almost $130.

w The Evergreen schools bond issue-levy combination.

Delta residents will see:

w A 0.5-mill, 5-year replacement levy for fire protection. It brings in just over $10,000 a year now and would raise $21,300 a year if the replacement passes.

w A second 0.5-mill, 5-year replacement levy for fire protection. It raises $13,700 a year now and would bring in $21,300 a year if the replacement passes.

w A 0.5-mill, 5-year replacement levy for recreation. It collects a little more than $10,000 annually now and would go to $21,300 if the replacement levy passes.

Each of the Delta levies would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $15.75 a year, for a total of $47.25 if all three pass - a tax increase of $29. Such a property owner is now billed $13.14 for the two fire levies and $4.96 for the recreation levy, a total of $18.10.

No matter how many voters go to the polls for such decisions, the cost of putting on an election is the same. Tuesday's election will cost Fulton County about $17,000, Ms. Marlatt said. Paying 148 poll workers - two Democrats and two Republicans for each poll - $80 each for the day costs almost $12,000.

About a dozen polling places are in churches or similar halls that charge rent for the day to the Board of Elections. The most expensive is the Church of the Nazarene on West Airport Highway in Swanton that charges $180 for the day.

How costly that is per vote, of course, depends on how many voters show up. If about 9,000 Fulton County residents go to the polls, the cost of taking each vote will average just under $2. But if less than 3,700 would show up - like last May - the average cost of tallying a vote increases to $4.60.

“It's not cheap to have an election and then find out no one is voting,” Ms. Marlatt said.

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