OUR VIEW: Boost in funding needed for Portage County Health Department

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It's difficult to imagine living on a budget put into place 57 years ago, but that's exactly what the Portage County Health Department has been doing since 1955, which was the last time voters approved additional funding for it.

The health department serves the entire county with the exception of Kent and Ravenna, which have municipal health departments. It serves as the first responder in health emergencies, conducts immunization clinics, is responsible for sanitation inspections of restaurants, public food service and septic systems and attempts to monitor environmental concerns. It does so with minimal staffing, on a shoestring budget.

Issue 1 on the May 7 ballot is a 0.4-mill replacement levy that would enable the health department to collect revenues at the original rate voters approved in 1955. The cost of doing so would be minimal by any standard -- roughly $10 per year in additional taxes for the owner of a $100,000 home. That would bring the tax bill to $12.60 per year, a little more than $1 per month.

The levy now brings in about $200,000 per year. Passage of Issue 1 would provide additional revenue to enable the department to restore services that have gone by the wayside because of budgetary concerns, increase staffing to more reasonable levels and initiate new programs for public health.

It also will help to ensure that the health department is fully accredited by 2018, the deadline set in the new state budget. Without accreditation, it most likely will cease to exist.

We remain at a loss as to why voters have repeatedly rejected such a modest increase in funding to cover the cost of vital services. The increase in taxes being sought is negligible. Passage of this levy is long overdue.

We strongly recommend a "Yes" vote on Issue 1.

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