Issue 7 on ballot could support Portage County MRDD services

Kristin Lindsey

Portage County voters will have the choice Tuesday to pass or fail Issue 7, which would renew a $4.1 million tax levy that supports services provided by the county’s Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. If passed, the renewal levy will extend over the next five years.

MRDD services, which support people with special needs from infancy through adulthood, include residential support, educational therapy services at Happy Day School, support for Portage Industry Inc.’s adult services, and transportation services to and from Happy Day School and Portage Industries Inc.

“We provide support to 800 individuals in different capacities,” said Patrick Macke, superintendent of Portage County MRDD. “Enrollment continues to grow.”

Macke explained that for a person whose home has a $100,000 market value, the levy costs $36 per year. That equals about 10 cents per day, he said.

If the levy fails, it will affect more than the Portage County Board of MRDD, Macke said. It would impact other agencies as well. For example, the board has a contract with PARTA to provide transportation for adults attending workshops. The board also has a contract with Goodwill Industries, which provides jobs for adults with disabilities. Without the levy, there would not be enough funds to maintain those contracts.

Macke said he also wants voters to know public funds are not used to support the campaign for Issue 7 or for past MRDD levy issues. Those efforts are guided by a citizens’ levy committee, which pays for promotional materials through fundraisers and private donations.

Bev Puleo, who is Macke’s executive assistant, serves as treasurer for the citizens’ committee. If voters don’t choose to renew the levy, she said MRDD would have to significantly reduce its programs and services, which already have been hurt by a reduction in space and federal funds. Puleo added that 75 percent of the Portage County Board of MRDD funding comes from local funds.

Both Puleo and Macke said Portage County has been supportive of MRDD in the past, and they hope voters will continue to show their support Tuesday.

“The Board of MRDD has been a very good steward of funds it receives, and the county has been very supportive,” Macke said. “We hope they (the voters) will continue with their support.”

Contact public affairs reporter Kristin Lindsey at [email protected].