Delaware News

County health district thanks voters after easy win


Delaware County voters passed a renewal levy Tuesday, May 6, expected to provide more than half of the Delaware General Health District's funding for another decade.

Voters approved the 10-year, 0.7-mill levy by a margin of about 65 percent to 35 percent, with 9,101 votes for the issue and 4,971 votes against, according to final, unofficial results from the Delaware County Board of Elections.

The levy will cost county property owners $19.20 per $100,000 in property value annually. The levy does not change the rate at which residents are taxed.

The levy is expected to raise about $3.5 million for the district annually.

The levy funds 55 percent to 60 percent of the health district's annual operating budget, according to district officials.

"We're very excited and we're very thankful to our voters -- that they believe in the things we do," Health Commissioner Shelia Hiddleson said.

Hiddleson said the levy gives the district the flexibility to respond to emergencies and pursue public-health programs not supported by grant funding. She said the district would have needed to reduce staffing and programming if the renewal levy was not approved in 2014.

Now, the health district should be set financially for another decade, she said.

"We deliberately (chose) a renewal levy for 10 years and we don't plan to run another unless something unusual happens," Hiddleson said.

The levy campaign coincided with the discovery of cases of mumps and a possible case of measles in Delaware County. State law requires health departments to investigate potential cases of infectious diseases, but additional funding is not likely during outbreaks.

As of Thursday, May 8, 34 probable cases of mumps had been reported in Delaware County, representing about 10 percent of the central Ohio mumps outbreak. The outbreak, thought to have started on Ohio State University's campus in February, has resulted in 317 cases.

One suspected case of measles was reported in Delaware County early this month. It may be tied to an outbreak that has sickened dozens in nearby counties since March.

As of May 8, no other cases of measles had been reported.

Hiddleson said the two outbreaks served as powerful reminders to voters of the importance of the district's work.

"It just reminds people of who we are and why we're here," she said.

Hiddleson has said the district has shifted personnel from its environmental health division to its infectious disease division to help deal with the increased number of investigations.