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The Suburbanite
  • Commissioners prepare to seek 911 renewal levy

  • Stark County commissioners have taken the first step to put a 0.1-mill renewal levy for county 911 services on the May ballot

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  • Rather than ask taxpayers for more money, Stark County commissioners will seek to renew a levy for county 911 services that won’t cover all of its annual expenses.
    Commissioners began the two-step process Wednesday to put the 0.1-mill renewal levy for 911 services on the May 7 ballot by asking the county auditor to certify how much the proposed five-year levy would generate. Next week, commissioners will review the auditor’s certification and take the formal step of asking the board of elections to put the tax issue on the ballot. The filing deadline for the primary election is Wednesday.
    If approved, the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home less than $3 a year and annually generate $616,000 a year to operate the Stark County 911 Call Center, which answers 911 emergency calls for all communities except Canton.
    Tim Warstler, director of the county 911 call center, said he needs roughly $1 million a year to operate the call center and has been using  revenue from a state-instituted monthly cellphone user fee to plug the shortfall.
    Commissioner Janet Weir Creighton said this week she could not ask taxpayers for additional money so the levy would cover the 911 call center’s annual operating expenses when the agency had $950,000 leftover in its accounts last year.
    Warstler said he would operate the call center on the funding level that commissioners choose. But he warned commissioners that state legislators in December lowered the monthly user fee that appears on cellphone bills from 28 cents to 25 cents. He said the surcharge, which only can be used to maintain the 911 system so it can answer wireless calls, will generate roughly $905,541, or $25,000 less, than last year. He also said that state legislators continue to discuss some rule changes that could affect the agency’s operations and funding this year.
    Nearly 85 percent of last year’s operating costs were spent on personnel expenses for the agency’s 16 call takers, a computer technician and half of the director and deputy director’s salaries, Warstler said. Call takers earn $12.26 an hour, plus benefits.
    Stark County commissioners
    WEDNESDAY MEETING
    KEY ACTION  Took the formal step of placing a 3.3-mill levy on the May 7 ballot for the Stark County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Under law, commissioners are the agency’s taxing authority.
    DISCUSSION  The levy seeks to combine the Board of Developmental Disabilities’ existing 1.9-mill and 1.4-mill levies that will expire over the next two years. If approved, the 10-year levy would generate $21.8 million annually and an owner of a $100,000 home would continue to pay $98 a year. The levies represent roughly 40 percent of the agency’s $50 million annual operating budget.
    OTHER ACTION
    • Approved agreements with ICAN Inc., Community Services of Stark County, the Stark County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services and Stark County Regional Planning Commission to administer and utilize a $256,000 grant intended to help individuals and families facing homelessness and those who are homeless with emergency shelter and permanent housing. The two-year grant was awarded through the Ohio Department Services Agency as part of its Homeless Crisis Response program.
    Page 2 of 2 - UP NEXT  Meet at 11:30 a.m. Friday for a special meeting on the second floor of the Stark County Office Building at 110 Central Plaza S. in Canton. Commissioners will hold a closed-door session to discuss the finalists for Stark County administrator.