Levy results from surrounding areas

Long standing mental health services levies in both Noble and Morgan counties were renewed by voters Tuesday night while an effort by the Switzerland of Ohio Local school district to raise funds was shot down by all three counties that voted on the levy.

The mental health services levy which has been in effect in Noble County since 1989 and in Morgan County since 1985, was renewed for another 10 years in each county.

Elaine Shuster, director of Morgan Behavioral Health Choices, said the decision means agencies in both counties will be able to continue important services for the next decade.

“I think I can speak for all the agencies involved that we are extremely grateful to the voters for supporting our programs,” she said.

In Morgan County, the 0.8-mill levy generates $127,496 annually and funds services provided by Morgan Behavioral Health Choices as well as a Six County Inc. counseling center and a Thompkins Child and Adolescent Services office.

In Noble County, the 0.7-mill levy generates $138,257 annually and provides services for Noble County branches of the same three organizations.

Both counties services are overseen by the Muskingum Area Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, which also coordinates mental health services in Muskingum, Coshocton, Guernsey and Perry counties.

The board is thrilled that both counties will be able to continue provide comprehensive services, said director Rod Hollingsworth.

“We provide mental health, drug and alcohol services and we do it comprehensively. We have out patient care, in patient care, and some residential programs for adults and kids,” he explained.

Officials with the Switzerland of Ohio Local school district said they were disappointed with the failure of a 7.72-mill emergency levy, which would have generated $3 million annually for the district over the next five years.

As it stands, the school district is already operating at bare state minimums, said treasurer Lance Erlwein.

“Even if it would have passed, there would have been no celebration. That $3 million would have allowed us to bring back some very basic academic programs and just break even,” he said.

Though the levy failed, nothing will immediately change at the schools, he added.

“We have to give the kids the best we can give them with what we have,” he said.

Under the current funding model, the school has enough money to finish this school year and the 2014-2015 academic year. After that, the future is less certain.

But putting the levy back on the ballot in the near future is not likely, said district superintendent John Hall.

“I know there are a lot of reasons for the defeat. We do respect the community’s decision,” he said.

The school district covers the largest geographical land area of any district in the state. Voters in Noble, Monroe, and Belmont counties all had a say in the levy.

In Monroe County, where most of the district is contained, 2,602 voters turned down the levy while 1,998 voted for it. In Belmont County, 452 voted for the levy and 344 voted against it. In Noble County, 81 voters rejected the levy while only 27 voted in favor of it.

Though he is disappointed in the failure of the levy, Hall said he is grateful to the residents for starting the conversation about the district’s future.