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Published: Wednesday, 8/18/2004

Agency withdraws operating levy request

FINDLAY The Hancock County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities yesterday withdrew its request for an operating levy for the Nov. 2 ballot, but a representative of the board warned that the need for additional funding won t go away.

Delaying the vote on a new tax was only prolonging the inevitable, Carla Powell, president of the MRDD board, told the county commissioners yesterday. You re forcing the Blanchard Valley Center to operate reactively, not proactively.

The MRDD board provides services to mentally retarded residents and oversees Blanchard Valley Center, a school for mentally retarded children, and Blanchard Valley Industries, a sheltered workshop for disabled adults.

Last month, the board agreed to seek a three-year, 2.8-mill operating levy that would generate an additional $4.2 million a year for operations.

But when Superintendent Bryan Miller presented the levy to the county commissioners, who by law must authorize the placement of the levy on the ballot, the commissioners delayed their decision until they could question state officials about funding changes to MRDD agencies.

In the ensuing weeks, numerous state and local officials came forward to suggest that 2.8 mills was excessive, that perhaps the MRDD was being premature in projecting the budget crisis, and that too many tax requests already were headed for the November ballot.

At a meeting last week, Commission Chairman Steve Oman said he would not vote in favor of putting the 2.8-mill levy on the ballot, and the issue was tabled until yesterday.

Ms. Powell said the commissioners stance forced the MRDD board to meet in special session Saturday to reassess the situation.

Mr. Miller told commissioners several factors prompted the board to abandon its levy request at this time, including community concerns about too many other taxes on the ballot and the fact that Blanchard Valley Center has been told it can get an advance on its real estate tax revenue.

He said the delay would allow time for discussions with community groups, school leaders, and others about the future of the center and the programs it offers.

In addition, the delay would give Blanchard Valley a clearer picture of state funding changes as well as plans for 2005 funding.

Blanchard Valley currently collects a 2.5-mill levy, which Hancock County voters agreed to replace last November.



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