Proposed Public Health Tax Would Raise Funds for Unit

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MEXICO - Public health officials discussed the details of a proposed public health tax in Audrain County Thursday as election day approaches.

The new tax would add a maximum of $0.25 per $100 of assessed property. The funds would benefit Audrain County Health Center and the maintenance and operation of the organization.

Audrain County currently operates on $350,000 per year, of which $100,000 is granted by the state. The organization said that it is not enough to maintain the services it provides.

"We're out there all the time, making sure that all environments that people work in, play in, eat in and sleep in are safe, healthy and hygenic and they're not going to get sick from doing that," said Audrain County Public Health Director Kevin Lowrance.

"We will not be able to provide near the amount of services that we do now, and/or we will cease to exist and be the only county in the state of Missouri without a local public agency," Lowrance added.

If the proposed tax is passed at the maximum extra $0.25 per $100 of assessed property, Audrain County Public Health could operate on a budget of around $520,000 in local dollars. The budget would total around $620,000 after receiving the state grant.

The Audrain County Public Health Center provides services such as restaurant inspections, daycare, diabetic assistance, immunizations, women and infant care, obesity education and government recalls. All services are not for profit and are provided to the public at the price the county purchases them.

Chris Griffith owns Pig Up and Go Barbecue in Mexico. If the proposed tax passes, Griffith would have to pay on both his restaurant and Mexico residence. His relationship with Audrain County Public Health was established via inspections.

"They looked for cleanliness, sanitation, how I clean my dishes and prepartion areas," said Griffith. "I think the new tax is something like life insurance and health insurance. You think you don't need it, you don't want to pay for it, but when you need it, it's generally too late if you don't have that insurance."

Public health officials said the county must pass the proposed tax in order for the Audrain County Public Health Center to maintain and expand the level of service provided.

Elections for the county will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.