Olentangy Valley News

Official: Delaware County health district's work crucial

May 6 levy's passage would allow programs to continue

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

As a levy campaign takes shape, Delaware County's top health official is hoping voters don't forget about the county's "well-kept secret."

In December, Delaware County commissioners approved the Delaware General Health District's request to place a 0.7-mill renewal levy on the May 6 ballot.

Shelia Hiddleson, the district's health commissioner, said the work of the district's employees is vital but too often overlooked.

For example, diners likely don't think about restaurant inspections when they sit down at a table, she said.

"Being a local health district is really kind of a well-kept secret," she said. "If we do our job, sometimes people don't even know we're there."

The Delaware Health Levy Committee will try to help remind voters about the district's work. The group will host a "Delaware's Got Talent" fundraiser at 6 p.m. Feb. 1 at Willis Intermediate School in Delaware.

Hiddleson said the district cannot spend any of its own funds to promote the levy, so the group's outreach efforts are invaluable.

The district's current levy, which is set to expire at the end of 2014, provides 55 percent to 60 percent of the district's operating budget. Almost all of the district's other funding comes from grants and fees that are tied to certain programs.

Delaware County residents currently pay $19.20 annually per $100,000 in property value to support the district. Residents would continue to be taxed at that rate if the renewal levy is approved.

If it were to fail, Hiddleson said the district could place another levy on the ballot in the fall, but if the voters fail to approve either attempt, layoffs would follow. Programs that do not receive grant funding also could be cut.

"There would be many, many programs that we (are) doing currently that we would not be able to do," she said.

She said the district's anti-tobacco and anti-obesity programming could be hit hard if the levy is not renewed.

The district has been working with local preschools on providing children with healthful meals and exercise opportunities, while asking local parks and school campuses to institute tobacco bans.

"We've been working very hard with our community partners to make Delaware County tobacco-free," she said.

National studies have named Delaware County as one of the healthiest in the state. For the past four years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin's county health rankings listed the county as one of three healthiest in Ohio.

Hiddleson said the district's goal is to keep improving health outcomes for the county's residents. She said county residents have supported the district at the same millage rate since 1984, and she thinks district officials have been "good stewards" of public funds.

"We certainly appreciate the support of the voters for the last 30 years," she said.

Hiddleson said residents with questions about the levy may call the health district's offices at 740-368-1700.

Residents can find more information about the levy and the talent show at choosehealthdelco.org.

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