For more than an hour on Jan. 26, the Delaware County commissioners discussed the merits of various options to pay for the county's unified 911 emergency services, projected to require $21-million to upgrade and operate during the next five years.

For more than an hour on Jan. 26, the Delaware County commissioners discussed the merits of various options to pay for the county's unified 911 emergency services, projected to require $21-million to upgrade and operate during the next five years.

Also at the meeting, commissioners approved a May levy for the county board of developmental disabilities in the amount of 2.1 mills for five years. The levy would raise $13.7-million over five years and would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $64.31 annually.

Officials were surprised in November when a proposed 911 levy failed.

"That was the first time ever a 911 levy had failed (in the city)," said city manager Tom Homan, asking the commissioners to act with unanimous support. "We don't want to see that happen again."

Commissioner Ken O'Brien, who is often the sole dissenting vote against spending measures, said he would prefer that a proposed 0.75-mill levy be broken into two parts, a 0.45-mill renewal and a 0.3-mill increase - but he said he would join his fellow commissioners in supporting this levy.

Commissioner Dennis Stapleton spoke for more than five minutes about how voters in Ohio and nationwide sent a strong message that they no longer will be fooled by separate tax votes for popular services while other government services are not held under the available budget. He said he would support the levy.

Commissioner Tommy Thompson said Delaware should have the "finest 911 service in the country," and that he would support the levy.

Powell police chief Gary Vest, chairman of the county 911 board, agreed that taxes are too high but the 911 levy is needed.

With a Feb. 2 deadline looming for the May ballot, the commissioners appeared well on their way to approve the proposed 0.75-mill levy.

The commissioners asked assistant county prosecutor Aric Hochstettler to draft three options for consideration Monday: A full 0.75-mill levy, and both separate 0.45-mill and 0.3-mill levies.

"I think people have reached a tipping point with taxes," Stapleton said. "There's a lot of money there. It's our responsibility. That's why they put us here: to allocate the dollars in the right way."

Stapleton said arguing that taxes must increase because a service is necessary might no longer be an option.

"I would argue that this county has the $21-million (required over five years)," Stapleton said. " The answer in my mind is, it's not always more levies."

County administrator Tim Hansley said the 911 board needs steady funding, not uncertain funding approval each year.

"They would like to have some certainty that it's not going to be every year," Hansley said. "One option might be to fund the 0.45-mill and then fund the difference through some other dedicated part of the sales tax or whatever you come up with."

Because the tax levy process requires two approvals - beginning with a certification by the auditor, followed by a certification by the board of elections - commissioners said they would hold an extended meeting Jan. 31 to ensure both approvals could be achieved by the Feb. 2 filing deadline.

"As a commissioner, my intent was to support what the 911 levy committee said, and I'm prepared to do that," Stapleton said. "But I'm also prepared as we go forward to attempt to restructure where we are in county government. That's what we have control over."