County health tax up this year for townships, villages
By Sarah Einselen
Crawford County’s townships are paying more for their health services this year, and township officials are not happy about it.
The Crawford County General Health District assumed responsibility for providing health services to Crestline at the start of 2012, and with that came a budget increase of about $43,000 to pay for the additional services rendered, according to health commissioner Scott Kibbler. However, the state-ordered formula for calculating each township and village’s contribution to the health district’s 2012 budgeted income required Crestline to pay $21,276 for its services.
That’s because the health district’s funding comes from county property taxes and the state formula, set out in Ohio Revised Code chapter 3709.28, charges townships and municipal corporations (villages) on the basis of their property valuations, not per capita, according to county auditor Robin Hildebrand.
Her office received calls from township officials about the assessment increases early this past summer, when townships were first notified of the impending increases, and during the last few days.
Once the health department’s budget was approved, she said, it fell to her office to run the calculations to figure out what each township and village’s assessment would be. All of them saw increases. The health board assessment schedule provided by Hildebrand’s office shows that Polk Township, with the second-largest property valuation in the county, will be charged $15,189, or $2,186 more. Jefferson Township’s assessment went up $1,824 to $11,677 and Jackson Township’s increased $464 to $3,020.
“It’s really getting stiff,” said Polk Township fiscal officer Pat Rondon. “It’s not going to bankrupt us, but every little bit of this hurts.” She thought the county health department could look into putting a levy on the ballot like Richland County’s health department does in order to alleviate the burden on the townships and villages.
Richland’s health department is funded by two levies, a .5 mill and a .9 mill, and does not collect the usual assessments from the townships and villages, according to Richland health commissioner Stan Saalman.
Hildebrand said she suggested to concerned township officials, when they called her office, that they contact the state townships association if they thought the formula wasn’t equitable. Since it’s a state-mandated issue with Ohio Revised Code, she said, it would have to be addressed at that level.
“We’re the safety net for health care services in the county,” Kibbler said in a phone interview this week. “Is it everybody’s obligation to help pay for it? Yes.” He compared the health district’s services to those provided by area fire and police departments. “It’s just one more public service that taxpayers pay for.”
When township officials brought up their concerns to Kibbler at the Jan. 25 meeting of the Regional Planning Commission, he said that though he knew the $43,000 budget increase was because of adding Crestline to the district’s responsibilities, he didn’t understand why half the burden of that cost fell to the townships and other villages.
“I don’t assess taxes,” Kibbler reiterated later. “The whole thing comes from the fact that Crestline defaulted to a village. I don’t know how the auditor’s office works as far as making the assessments.” When township officials asked him about the assessments at the RPC meeting, he hadn’t looked at the numbers in about a year and thought the auditor’s office had figured the assessments according to population.
Township officials were also surprised to see the numbers changing so much, though they had received the health board assessment chart, showing the dollar amount change, with a letter dated March 30, 2011.
Hildebrand’s office had originally notified the health district and the townships of the assessments in April and May of 2011, Kibbler noted. “They should have known about it last year. I think what happened was it kind of went by everybody,” he said.
The City of Bucyrus’ contract amount with the health district remained unchanged this year.
The health district will monitor costs this year and reevaluate its budget at the end of the year. At that time, health board members should have a more concrete idea of how much it costs to cover Crestline as well as the townships, Kibbler said.
Representatives from all Crawford County townships and villages will be required to attend the annual meeting of the county’s health district advisory council on March 5. Township officials at the RPC meeting had requested that the health assessment increases be explained to them at the district advisory council meeting.