State lawmakers have cleared the way for Delaware County to place a tax levy for 911 services on the fall ballot.
County officials have been seeking approval of a bill that would exempt communities that have their own 911 services from being taxed if a countywide levy is passed by voters. Dublin, Westerville and Columbus don’t receive 911 services from Delaware County even though parts of those cities are in Delaware County.
Late Wednesday night, House Bill 277 was passed by the state Senate and House. The bill prevents counties from double-taxing municipalities for 911 services.
Passing the bill was critical for Delaware County’s 911 levy that will expire at the end of the year, county officials said.
Patrick Brandt, director of 911 services for Delaware County, said he spent a lot of time at the Statehouse in Columbus the last couple of days, waiting for HB 277’s passage. “Last night it was almost 11 p.m. when ours went through,” he told Delaware County commissioners Thursday.
The double-taxation issue was discovered when county officials started preparing a 911 tax levy for the November ballot. County officials then asked State Rep. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, to sponsor a bill to resolve the issue, Brandt told The Gazette earlier.
Commissioner Gary Merrell said Brandt had kept commissioners up-to-date on the progress of the bill. “I can’t tell you the number of texts I got on this,” he said.
Many of the officials in the southern parts of the county passed resolutions in support of the bill. “We need to make sure we thank our friends in the south,” Brandt said.
If the bill had not passed, the 911 levy in November would have failed, Brandt said. Dublin, Westerville and Columbus would have voted “no” on the levy, Brandt said in a prepared statement from the county.
The county’s 911 service is funded primarily by a 0.45-mill property tax levy — which generates $2.25 million annually — in addition to $456,000 budgeted from the county’s general fund, according to county officials.
The bill contains an emergency clause allowing it to become effective as soon as Gov. John Kasich signs it. “When does the governor sign it?” Commissioner Jeff Benton asked Brandt. Brandt told Benton that his guess was as good as his own.
Outlining next steps in the process, Brandt said he has to “run the numbers” for a five-year levy. From there, he will present his findings to the 911 board. If the board approves, the levy goes to commissioners for a resolution to be placed on the November ballot.
Brandt said Aug. 10 is the deadline for placing the levy on the ballot.
In other business, commissioners approved the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District’s recommendation of an agreement with the Ohio Department of Agriculture for the Local Agriculture Easement Purchase Program.
In March, commissioners agreed to be local sponsors of ODA’s farmland preservation program, conserving farmland for future agricultural use.
In the agreement, commissioners are to act as “eyes and ears” for the state agriculture department.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.