December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain County commissioners considering 2 levies for May

Susan Lilly walks to a Lorain County Transit bus in this 2009 file photo. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Susan Lilly walks to a Lorain County Transit bus in this 2009 file photo. The county commissioners are considering whether to ask voters to approve a levy to expand LCT services.  CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

ELYRIA — Lorain County commissioners are mulling whether to ask voters in May to approve levies to fund the county’s crime lab as well as Lorain County Transit.

Voters resoundingly rejected a 0.04-mill levy for transit last year that would have brought in roughly $246,000 annually to expand LCT services, but Commissioner Lori Kokoski said it’s important to try again.

“Transit isn’t really popular, but it is one thing that the community needs,” she said.

Budget cuts in recent years have dramatically reduced the number of routes LCT buses run and reduced funding has meant the county has had to forego federal and state dollars that could have been used to pay for expanded bus services, county Administrator Jim Cordes said.

He said Lorain County residents are effectively subsidizing transit systems in other counties because LCT can’t afford the matching money to bring in state and federal dollars to pay for transit locally.

“For every 20 cents we put on the table, we get 80 cents back,” he said.

Cordes said the county might even ask for a slightly higher levy to pay for transit this year, one that could bring in as much as $300,000 annually.

The commissioners also are hoping the support they received for a 0.08 mill levy to fund the Lorain County Drug Task Force last year will translate into success at the polls if they ask voters to back new property taxes to support the crime lab.

Cordes said the lab has been operated in partnership with the Lorain County Adult Probation Department in recent years, but the Probation Department is going through some reorganization that will see drug testing of those being supervised outsourced as a cost-saving measure.

He said that will leave the crime lab with approximately $155,000 per year to pay for staffing, equipment and materials to analyze evidence, including drugs, that help speed up the local court system.

“It doesn’t bring in enough money to be self-supporting,” he said of the crime lab, which is funded through a small levy it shares with the Drug Task Force.

Commissioner Tom Williams said he’s still deciding whether to support putting the levies on the May ballot.

“I will consider the crime lab,” he said. “I’m not sold on the transit levy yet. Every time we put it up, it gets defeated.”

Cordes said the crime lab levy would probably bring in about $400,000 per year if voters approve it.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.