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Taxpayers expected to save with levies

T-L Photo/ ROBERT A. DEFRANK Belmont County Senior Services Dwayne Pielech Wednesday said his office is asking voters to renew a 1-mill levy this November. His department was able to drop a half-mill levy last year.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County commissioners approved two levies for the coming Nov. 3 ballot Wednesday, with some savings in property taxes.

Belmont County 911 plans to reduce it’s 1-mill levy to a ¾-mill levy and the renewal of a 1-mill senior services levy comes after a half-mill levy was dispensed with. The department heads were on hand to explain.

The commissioners also approved salary increases for non-union employees under their office.

Belmont County 911 Director Bryan Minder said this is the first time his office has reduced a levy. The department has utilized the levy for 10 years. It had been up for its second renewal and will expire at the end of the year.

“It will not appear as a renewal, since the levy will run out and be replaced by a lesser one.

He said the levy has been valuable in upgrading the emergency radio system, including portable and mobile radios, however he said 1 mill is no longer necessary.

“It’s going from a 1-mill levy to a three-quarter-mill levy,” Minder said. “The current levy is going to be allowed to expire at the end of this year. The new levy, if passed by the voters, is going to start next year, so they will see the reduction in their taxes after this year.”

He added the 911 office is able to continue maintaining the system.

“We’re still going to be able to maintain the system and upgrade what we need to upgrade, with 25% less of the funds. It’s really great,” he said. “Everything is still going to be maintained. We’re still going to do the upgrades we want to do, it’s just that with the money that’s projected to come in, we should be able to do it at a savings to the taxpayer.”

“He’s been a very good steward of the money they’ve received over the years,” Commissioner Josh Meyer said.

Senior Services Director Dwayne Pielech noted that his department had announced the elimination of a half-mill levy in 2020. It ran out, leaving a 1-mill and 1.5-mill levy to fund the department.

“I’m here to discuss the renewal of the 1-mill levy,” he said, adding the support of voters is greatly appreciated. Pielech said his department expanded programs during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the needs of at-risk seniors.

The home delivered meal program expanded, and the demand for transportation to medical appointments was also pressing.

“We were able to not only continue to not miss a beat during the pandemic, but we’ve increased meals to more than 1,200 home-delivery meals a day (200 more daily than what were produced one year ago). We’ve increased the mileage, and now thankfully there were so many seniors anxiously awaiting the reopening of the senior centers,” he said. “Now that we’ve reopened, we’re looking at some additional services in these senior centers.”

He said the 5-year levy generates about $2 million yearly, and the 1.5-mill levy generates about $2.8 million. Pielech’s department will also continue to seek grants through the Area Agency on Aging for more than $1 million yearly, for a total Senior Services budget of almost $6 million.

Pielech added he was considering adding another meal delivery route.

Also, the commissioners approved revised pay scales for all non-union positions under the board, effective Aug. 1.

Belmont County Commissioner Jerry Echemann said the five-year scale covers 43 of the 71 people of the 550 county employees, for a total immediate general fund cost of $58,000.

“The intent of it is to be able to recruit good people, and then once you recruit them, retention,” he said. “To be able to keep them by paying them enough that they want to work for the county. It’s becoming more difficult now to get people in all areas of employment.

“My opinion is it’s a good idea. People know what category they’re in, where they stand on the scale. If they’re eligible for raises they’ll be able to look out another three, four five years,” he said. “‘I can look forward to this in three years.’ I think by and large it’ll give people an incentive to stay with the county.”

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