MARIETTA - Washington County voters narrowly voted down the only county-wide levy Tuesday. The Washington County Children Services levy failed by just 428 votes, according to the final but unofficial poll results.
Those results could change, however, with 742 provisional ballots plus a possible 480 additional absentee ballots still to be counted if they were postmarked by the correct date. Official results will come Nov. 19.
The levy was the first ever attempted by the agency and would have generated nearly $1.6 million annually. Ideally, the levy would have provided the organization with enough funding to reinstate the School Outreach Prevention Program in all local school districts, said WCCS executive director Dave Copen.
"Obviously I'm very disappointed," said WCSS supervisor Alice Stewart after all precincts were counted.
The organization and its levy committee have been rigorously campaigning for the past 10 months, knocking on doors, distributing DVDs and making approximately 40 presentations to groups throughout the county.
Adding to the disappointment was the fact that the levy had received such vocal support in the weeks leading up to the election, said those on the levy committee. Committee chairwoman Ginny McVey said she received lots of positive feedback doing door to door canvassing.
"There were never any negative comments. I felt very confident with our message," said McVey at a gathering at Children Services prior to the polls closing.
Leaving the polls Tuesday, residents vocalized support for the levy.
"I voted for the levy because it didn't seem like too much and it helps kids out," said 21-year-old Reno resident Logan Shrader after casting his vote Tuesday.
"I think it is important to keep our children safe and to keep our community safe," added Vickie Hall, 33, of Reno.
However, economics played a big role in the outcome of the race, something the group had expected, said Stewart.
"Times are tough," she said.
The 10-year, 1.46-mill levy would have cost the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 approximately $45 a year, or about $3.75 a month. Many Washington County residents were less than thrilled with the idea of more taxes.
"I voted no. I do not want my taxes going up. I can't afford for them to go up," said Reno resident Brandi Curtis, 33, as she left her polling place Tuesday night.
The levy committee members said they are now focusing on the future in case the final count is not in their favor.
"Regardless of how we do it, we have got to take good care of our children," said levy committee member Jim Vuksic.
Children Services is a state mandated program, so it will operate in spite of a failed levy, added Stewart.
Now the task of funding the organization will fall back onto the county budget.
"We'll just have to meet with the commissioners early and see what we can do to make sure we can make it through the year," said Vuksic.