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Toledo voters face possible 7 tax levies

Residents could pay extra $345 a year

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Lucas County voters will see at least four or possibly five levies on the November general election ballot -- plus two additional levies if they live inside Toledo.

The new levy requests would add $345 a year to the bill for an owner of a $100,000 home who lives in the city of Toledo and its school district.

For that same Toledo homeowner, their new bill for the involved levies would be $1,916 annually, up from $1,571, according to calculations by the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce.

At their weekly meeting on Tuesday, the Lucas County Commissioners unanimously approved letting voters decide on requests from the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, Lucas County Children Services, and the Imagination Station.

The proposals include:

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A new 1-mill, 10-year levy for the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $30.63 annually. It would generate about $7 million annually for the agency.

A renewal of its 1-mill levy plus a new, 0.85-mill tax for Lucas County Children Services. The levies' total cost for the owner of a $100,000 home would be $56.66, or an increase of $26.03 annually. The new portion of the levy wouldn't be collected until 2014. It would generate about $12.9 million annually. Levies provide more than half of the agency's revenue.

A renewal of Imagination Station's 0.17 mill, five-year levy. It costs the owner of a $100,000 property $5.21 yearly. This would generate about $1.5 million annually for the science center.

All three levies were recommended to be placed on the ballot by the Lucas County Citizens Levy Review Committee. Tom Susor, the committee's chairman, addressed the commissioners before their vote Tuesday morning.

Mr. Susor said the Mental Health Board followed the citizen committee's recommendations to spend down reserves and cut costs.

"We believe they deserve the opportunity to go before the voters of Lucas County for additional support," he said. If approved, the levy would offset about $7 million in state and federal cuts.

He said the committee also wanted to recognize Children Services for cutting costs and spending reserves. In recommending Imagination Station's levy, Mr. Susor commended the museum's discounted admission for Lucas County residents, continuing education classes for local teachers, and securing corporate sponsorships.

"Their positive work in reaching out for corporate money shows their commitment to proving exciting cultural experiences for residents of our region," he said.

The plethora of funding requests on the ballot does have some officials concerned that voters could feel overwhelmed.

Mr. Susor said the committee expressed concerns about the number of levies on the ballot, but he stated it was up to the voters to decide which to support. At a citizens levy committee meeting earlier this month, Commissioner Pete Gerken said the volume of levies means the county should seriously explore the idea of one human-services levy that could encompass mental health, children services, senior-citizen programs, and mental retardation and disability services. Such an "umbrella" levy could replace the current system of each agency having to go before the voters.

Charts on the Web site of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, toledochamber.com, show how tax bills could increase depending on the municipality and school district where property owners live.

Christine Bailey, communications manager for the chamber, said the charts aren't intended to oppose any levies, and the organization has not taken a position for or against any of the measures.

Another potential levy in November could come from the Metroparks of the Toledo Area; board members will vote next week on whether they will place a 0.9-mill levy on the general election ballot.

The agency has a 0.3-mill levy that expires at the end of this year, but the funds it provides can only be used for purchasing land, not for maintenance and day-to-day park operations. The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $27.56 annually.

The potential new levy would raise about $7.1 million annual, according to Scott Carpenter, a spokesman for the agency. It would assist with major maintenance and improvements at several parks, such the Middlegrounds in downtown Toledo, Fallen Timbers Battlefield in Maumee, and others.

Additionally, a 2.9-mill levy request from the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library will be on the Nov. 6 election ballot.

Two mills of that would be a renewal of the library's existing levy; 0.9 mills would be additional.

The additional 0.9 mill would represent about $27 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home. The total 2.9 mills would cost that same homeowner about $88 annually.

Toledo voters will also see a 6.9-mill new permanent levy for Toledo Public Schools and a 1-mill levy request for Toledo's parks and recreation facilities.

Those taxes would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $211.28 and $30.62 more a year, respectively.

Staff Writer Nolan Rosenkrans contributed to this report.

Contact Kate Giammarise at kgiammarise@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.

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