A week before Hamilton County commissioners vote to approve levies to fund senior and mental health services, Cincinnatians on Wednesday again packed the Board of County Commissioners' meeting room to urge them to preserve the funding.
The public hearing — the first of two scheduled for the day — saw service providers, service recipients and activists ask commissioners not to enact what would be an effective cut to the funding for those services when they vote on the levies Aug. 8.
The levies, approved in 2008, are up for renewal this November. The Tax Levy Review Committee recommended that the levies continue at the 2008 rates — an effective cut because of declining property values due to the housing market collapse. Many of the advocates at the meeting asked commissioners to increase the levy so they could maintain their current level of funding.
“I cannot tell you we can do more with less,” said Thomas Gableman, Mental Health and Recovery Services Board Chairman.
“We cannot do the same with less. We will do less with less.”
The Tax Levy Review Committee’s recommendation was based on the rationale that struggling homeowners shouldn’t be burdened with additional taxes. Gableman and others said it should be up to taxpayers whether they were willing to shell out more to preserve funding for services such as meals on wheels, senior transportation, mental health treatment and alcohol diversion programs.
“We’re not asking you to vote for a tax increase,” an impassioned Gableman told commissioners, “we’re saying let the voters of Hamilton County decide — let the voters of Hamilton County decide if they will take care of their own. We do take care of our own, and we’re damn proud of it.”
Gableman said if the Mental Health Services levy simply re-approved, those services would lose $17.3 million in funding. He said if commissioners provided the same level of funding approved in 2008, services would still face a $5.6 million reduction in funding.
Some Cincinnatians who had benefited from the services were in attendance to share their stories.
Greg Williams said he had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. He said that were it not for mental health services he received from the Ikron Corporation, he “would be dead or in prison.”
He said thanks to his treatment, he was able to get hired to two jobs, get his life, family and some of his friends back.
“If they cut funding, imagine if you were going to the zoo and let loose every violent animal — imagine what would happen?” Williams said.