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Officials: Levy passage crucial

Friday, June 1, 2018

By Justin Wier


Officials say a 1.35-mill levy is crucial for the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board to meet the county’s demand for its services.

The Mahoning County commissioners voted Thursday to place the measure on November’s ballot.

If approved by voters, the ballot measure will renew an existing 0.85-mill real-estate tax levy and add a 0.5-mill increase. It will cost the owner of a $100,000 home $43.20 per year.

The levy will increase the board’s levy revenue from about $4.3 million to $5.4 million.

Duane Piccirilli, the board’s executive director, said the additional money will allow the board to increase mental-health services in county schools and address the area’s shortage of residential treatment centers for addiction.

All of the board’s services are provided through outside agencies in accordance with state law.

Alta Behavioral Healthcare, one of those agencies, spends about 3,000 hours in the schools each year, but that may not be enough.

“We’re hearing from the community that we need to be doing more in our schools,” Piccirilli said.

At Thursdays meeting, Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said she’s also talked to school officials who believe schools need greater access to mental health services.

That could involve more time spent on counseling or a crisis response team that would react if a teacher or guidance counselor believes they have identified a student who requires help, Piccirilli said.

With the 0.5-mill increase, the board decided it will not seek renewal of an existing 0.5-mill levy passed in 1976 set to expire in 2020.

That levy will generate about $900,000 in its final two years, which Piccirilli said will go toward infrastructure improvements for the board’s contract agencies that provide services. It may also be used to fund new construction.

Though the new, combined levy would generate more revenue, Piccirilli said it also will cut costs because the board will only have to run one levy campaign every five years.

“The problem with two levies, two years apart, is that we must spend the money to run two levy campaigns as well as the related election costs,” he said. “Those are dollars we want to put into direct services.”