The Union County commissioners have given the Union County Health Department approval to put a 0.75-mill replacement levy on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The Union County commissioners have given the Union County Health Department approval to put a 0.75-mill replacement levy on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Health department spokesperson Jennifer Thrush said the original levy was approved in 1999 and will expire Dec. 31.

The health department is currently funded through two different levies: the 0.75-mill levy and a 0.5-mill levy that will expire at the end of 2011, Thrush said.

Because of the property tax roll-backs, the 1999 0.75-mill levy collection rate has been reduced to 0.55 mill. If approved, the replacement levy would bring be collected at 0.75 mill. By comparison, if a renewal levy was put on the ballot and approved, the rate would have remained at 0.55 mill.

If the 0.75-mill levy is approved, it will cost a homeowner an additional $6.13 annually per $100,000 of assessed valuation, compared to the 0.55-mill levy.

Thrush said 53 percent of the health department's budget is supported by local levy dollars. The rest comes from $600,000 in federal and state grants and contracts, fees for services, permits and licenses, Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements and state subsidies.

She said the annual budget for the department varies between $2.7- and $2.9-million each year.

"The Union County Health Department has worked hard the last 10 years to establish itself as a valuable member of the community," Thrush said. "We enjoy the support of a number of individuals and our community, and we have a strong levy committee made up of community members who are committed to seeing the levy pass. We believe that a majority of voters support (the department) even during this tough economic time, but we also understand that voters will have a lot to consider this fall."

If the levy doesn't pass the department will be able to continue services for a short time but many critical services could be eliminated or dramatically decreased, Thrush said.

She used the department's primary care clinic as an example.

"Last year, our clinic treated 1,569 patients. Without levy funding, those 1,569 individuals would go without routine and preventative medical care," she said.

Thrush said Union County does not have a significant number of water-borne illnesses from public pools. She credits the health department working with pool managers weekly to ensure water quality. She said pool inspections will not continue at the same level if the levy fails.

Health Commissioner Jason Orcena urged residents to vote for the levy.

"The levy makes it possible for us to engage in programs to protect the health and safety of our residents," he said. "Without the continued support of our community, we will not be successful in our efforts."