HUNTINGTON - Besides choosing among candidates for dozens of elective offices, Cabell County residents also will be faced with deciding whether to continue six countywide tax levies when they vote in the West Virginia primary election.
Those levies yield tax support for Cabell County Emergency Medical Services, the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, the Tri-State Transit Authority, fire protection services and training, Green Acres Regional Center and Autism Services Center, and Cabell County senior citizens projects and programs.
The levy rates for each of those uses are calculated against the assessed value of each homeowner's property.
All of the levies are a continuation and are not an increase in taxes. The current levies will expire in 2017 and the new levies will be for five years, ending in 2022.
Almost all the levies have been repeatedly passed since the 1980s.
Gordan Merry, Cabell County EMS director, said he believes the community has supported the levy for that agency for so long because they can see the service they receive.
"We've built eight stations throughout county, our equipment is in good shape and updated, we stay with all current requirements imposed on us by the medical community," Merry said. "We've always had good support and I think it's because the service we offer and they can see the return they are putting into."
Last year, Cabell County EMS responded to 35,000 calls with an average response time of 7.5 minutes.
Merry said if the levy does not pass, it would create a lot of hardships for the people trying to provide the service.
The EMS levy is one of six on the nonpartisan ballot where voters can mark either "for the levy" or "against the levy."
The EMS tax rate for owner-occupied residential property is 6 cents per $100 assessed valuation. For the owner of a home with a market value of $100,000 and an assessed value of $60,000 for tax purposes, the cost of that levy is about $36 per year.
The following are the tax rates and estimated annual costs for that same homeowner for the other five levies on the county ballot:
n Cabell-Huntington Health Department: 2.4 cents per $100 assessed valuation, or about $14.40 a year.
n Green Acres Regional Center Inc. and Autism Services Center: 1.3 cents per $100 assessed valuation, or about $7.80 a year.
n Cabell County Senior Citizen Projects and Programs: 0.4 of a cent per $100 assessed valuation, or about $2.40 a year.
n Tri-State Transit Authority: 2.4 cents per $100 assessed valuation, or about $14.40 a year.
n Fire Protection Service, Firefighter Training and Economic Development: 1.08 cents per $100 assessed valuation, or about $6.50 per year.
Altogether, the owner of a home worth about $100,000 and assessed at $60,000 for tax purposes would pay about $82 toward those six counties levies annually.
A separate levy to support the TTA also is on the ballot for Huntington residents to vote on in the May 10 primary. That continuation levy is 7 cents per $100 valuation and would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $42 per year.
For a Huntington resident, the Cabell-Huntington Health Department levy is a little more than 1 percent of a the total real estate tax bill, but the money it yields equates to nearly 50 percent of the health department's budget, said administrator Tim Hazelette. Without that money, residents would see a drastic drop in services and would have to begin paying for free services like restaurant licenses and flu shots.
The county health department is one of the most community-supported health departments in the state, and because of that Hazelette said the health department owes the residents of Cabell County and Huntington the very best. That is why the department is applying for national accreditation, something only about 150 of nearly 3,000 health departments in the country have.
"Because of the community support that we are provided, we feel we owe the citizens of Cabell County a nationally certified product," Hazelette said.
In 2015, the health department provided over 34,000 services to over 24,000 clients, including almost 3,000 inspections and investigation of 744 complaints.
Elizabeth Ayers, public information specialist at the health department, said even if someone does not step through the doors of the health department, public health services affect them every day, from the grocery store to tracking mosquito pools in the community.
Huntington residents get to vote on two TTA levies because when the transit service was launched in the 1970s, both the city of Huntington and Cabell County funded the public transportation system with funds from their general budgets, said Paul Davis, CEO and general manager of TTA. However, in the early 1980s, the two bodies decided they could not fund it from general funds, and left it to the voters to decide if they wanted to fund public transportation. It has been supported by levy ever since.
Davis said the TTA could not survive without the levy, as it needs local funds to match federal grants. He said to be a city, not just a town, you need public transportation.
"People use the bus system for two reasons: to make money or spend money," Davis said. "People use the bus system to go to doctor, shopping and other places such as education, Marshall University and others."
The TTA had 940,000 boardings last year, and nearly 200 people use the $1 ride service a day, which is for elderly and handicapped.
The Green Acres Regional Center provides a comprehensive continuum of services and support for skill development to assist developmentally disabled adults in Cabell, Mason, Lincoln and Wayne counties.
Autism Services Center is a nonprofit, licensed behavioral health center specializing in autism to provide services in Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln and Mason counties to all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Jimmie Beirne, chief operations officer for Autism Services, said that agency's portion of the levy is used to provide services to people with autism and other disabilities who need services but don't have Medicaid funding and for room and board for individuals living in Cabell County who may not otherwise have a place to stay.
He said he believes county residents support the levy because they have compassion for individuals who need support and recognize the limited resources in the community to be able to provide those support services.
The fire protection levy supports volunteer fire departments in the county, including training. The Cabell County Senior Citizens projects and programs levy is less than a quarter percent of a typical homeowner's tax bill.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter @TaylorStuckHD.
2016 Cabell County levies
n Cabell County EMS: supports daily operations of emergency medical services throughout the county
n Cabell-Huntington Health Department: supports variety of services at the health department
n Tri-State Transit Authority: supports public transportation throughout the county and Huntington
n Green Acres Regional Center and Autism Services Center: supports two organizations giving support to residents with intellectual and physical disabilities
n Fire: supports volunteer fire departments in the county
n Cabell County senior citizens projects and programs: supports Cabell County senior citizens