County Rejects Tax Levy for Rehab Facilities


Bryan Rubin, Photo editor

Community members check in with staff members at the polling center in Philips gym. The other polling centers in Oberlin included the Zion Community Development building and Kendal at Oberlin.

Sydney Allen , Editor-in-Chief

Widespread opioid abuse has plagued Lorain County in recent years, but voters still rejected a measure to fund a single rehabilitation facility in a county that has zero on Tuesday.

Issue 35, the proposed tax levy, would have designated money for the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Lorain County. The levy would also have increased resources for addicts in Lorain County, as there are currently very few options for those who want to detox or need support remaining clean. Lorain County currently has no rehabilitation locations for recovering heroin addicts.

“[The levy was intended to] increase much-needed detox, residential and other treatment for individuals, provide expanded education and support to families struggling with addiction of their loved ones, add age-appropriate prevention, early identification and referral service to youth in grades K-12 throughout Lorain County,” said Elaine Georgas, executive director of the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Lorain County.

Since 2012, Lorain County has had over 60 overdose deaths annually, but this year the county is on track to have approximately 140 deaths related to heroin, opioids and other drugs, according to Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans. Ohio is ranked second nationally in overdose deaths with 2,744 deaths in 2014, falling only behind California, which had 4,521 overdose deaths in 2014.

Oberlin City Council approved a unanimous endorsement of Issue 35 the day before the election.

“I and my colleagues agreed that Issue 35 addressed quality of life and safety issues for our county,” said Councilmember Sharon Soucy.

Had the levy passed, it would have been in effect for five years and raised approximately $7.8 million annually, costing the owner of a $100,000 house about $42 per year — less than 12 cents per day. Fifty-five percent of people voted against it by a margin of 10,000.

The city of Oberlin was largely in favor of the levy, with 3,413 people voting for it and only 1,001 people against it. These margins starkly contrasted with tallies from other municipalities that voted overwhelmingly against the issue.

Out of the 10 cities and districts that compose Lorain County, only Oberlin and Avon Lake voted to approve the levy. Avon Lake is the wealthiest city in Lorain County with an annual per capita income of $32,336 and an average household income of $65,988 according to the 2010 U.S. Census. The rest of the cities have a per capita income of around $22,000 per year.

Although Oberlin has a per capita income of $20,704 with approximately a quarter of its residents at or below the poverty line, the city overwhelmingly voted for the issue.

For some voters, the decision to vote against the levy had nothing to do with the levy itself but with the election in general. Oberlin resident Eugenia Bobo said she chose not to vote for the levy due to the divisiveness and negativity associated with this election cycle.

“I usually vote in favor of all the tax levies,” Bobo said. “I voted against it this year. I was very unhappy with the election, and I was angry. If [Donald Trump’s] not going to pay his taxes, I’m not going to pay more. He can pay it himself.”

The heroin and opioid epidemic is currently costing the U.S. $76 billion each year in societal costs. According to Georgas every $1 spent on prevention would create $10 in savings.

“Every city has been impacted by the epidemic,” Georgas said. “Drug-related crime continues, emergency room costs are high due to overdose survivors accessing the ER … and employers cannot find qualified drug-free candidates to hire and maintain productivity.”

City Councilmember Kelley Singleton emphasized that the drug crisis extends far beyond Lorain County.

“It’s a really big issue all across the country, but particularly in our area, it’s pretty bad,” Singleton said. “And I think it’s going to need more than Lorain County’s help to fix this problem. It’s a federal issue, it’s a state issue to fix this problem, as well as a local issue.”