SALEM, Ohio — Harrison County voters have turned down a 0.5 mil levy that would’ve brought much-needed financial support to their soil and water conservation district.
The levy, which went before voters on the March 4 ballot, failed by about 700 votes.
While it was a disappointing result, the district is still hoping to move forward.
A little help
Don Jones, chairman of the Harrison Soil and Water Conservation District board of directors, said after the levy failed, Harrison County commissioners voted 2 to 1 to appropriate $12,500 to the district.
The conservation district has typically been financed through appropriations from the commissioners. That money was then matched by the state.
But due to a tight county budget this year, the district originally received no funding from the commissioners. And no money from the county meant no state match, either.
The district’s two-person staff has been operating on a small carryover budget from 2007.
Last year, the district received $39,500 from the county and an equal amount from the state. The 0.5 mil levy would have generated about $94,000 to go toward adding more staff members and programs.
Jones said the $12,500 from the commissioners will be matched by the state, but that won’t solve all the district’s problems.
The board has voted to cut the hours of staff members to 32 hours per week.
“It’s not something we wanted to do, but that was the only place there was left to cut,” Jones said.
One staff member will work Monday through Thursday, while the other will work Tuesday through Friday, allowing the district to keep its doors open five days a week.
Jones said the current situation will permit the conservation district to stay in operation through the end of 2008.
“But now we’ve got to look beyond Dec. 31,” he said.
The levy will not be on the November ballot, but the board is exploring some other options.
For 2009, the district will apply for a program assistance grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The most it could receive through this program is $25,000, but Jones said the board isn’t banking on getting that much.
The board also plans to look to county commissioners for funding again next year.
Whatever route the district takes, Jones assured county residents the board will fight to keep soil and water conservation services in the county.
“We’re not going to just go away,” he said.
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