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BOC approves one-year millage for medical facility

Expected to cost average household $0.55 a month

By: Alex Szwarc | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published December 13, 2019

 On Dec. 2, the Macomb County Board of Commissioners approved levying 0.1 mill for one year to support the services provided at the Martha T. Berry Medical Care Facility in Mount Clemens.

On Dec. 2, the Macomb County Board of Commissioners approved levying 0.1 mill for one year to support the services provided at the Martha T. Berry Medical Care Facility in Mount Clemens.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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MOUNT CLEMENS — Nearly $3 million will be raised next year through a one-time millage.

At the Dec. 2 Macomb County Board of Commissioners meeting, in a 7-5 vote, the board approved levying 0.1 mill for one year to support the services provided at the Martha T. Berry Medical Care Facility, located at 43533 Elizabeth Road in Mount Clemens.

Commissioners Andrey Duzyj, Marv Sauger, Veronica Klinefelt, Rob Mijac, Rob Leonetti, Harold Haugh and Bob Smith voted “yes.”

Commissioners Leon Drolet, Phil Kraft, Jim Carabelli, Don Brown and Joseph Romano voted “no.”

A press release states that after the first explored potential options to provide the requested funding assistance yielded no support — including a possible loan from the treasurer’s revolving fund or from the county’s general fund — the board executed its authority to vote on levying the one-year millage.

The one-time millage will be levied in 2020 and is expected to cost the average Macomb County household $0.55 per month, raising roughly $2.9 million assuming 3.5% growth in property values and before any Headlee Amendment rollback.

“Funds levied from the millage will support a necessary and required extension of the county’s only medical care facility that provides a safety net for Macomb County’s senior, medically frail and low-income citizens,” the release indicates.

BOC Chairman Bob Smith said the facility has long served one of the most vulnerable populations in Macomb County.

“Due to a recent change in regulatory mandates, it needs short-term, temporary assistance to ensure those who call Martha T. Berry their home have a safe and quality place to live,” he said.

The recent change in regulatory requirements mandates that medical care facilities move from an institutional model of care to one that is more focused on the individual resident.

Drolet, who represents District 13, which includes most of Macomb Township, said that residents shouldn’t have to pay for “bad mistakes made by past generations of voting commissioners.”

“In the past, too many elected officials promised generous and rich pension benefits to employees they were unable to afford,” Drolet said.

He added that bills are coming due in the county and that the commission could have supported the facility through a bridge loan.

“We could’ve provided them with a $1.5 million loan to bridge them through a period until the books get balanced, and they would’ve repaid the county for the loan,” Drolet said.  

Martha T. Berry was established in 1949, pursuant to the Social Welfare Act, and is one of 35 county medical care facilities in Michigan that cares for medically frail seniors despite their ability to pay.

In 2009, BOC unions representing Martha T. Berry employees and the county’s social services board and human services board entered into a joint operating agreement pertaining to the facility’s oversight, which has since been upheld in Macomb County Circuit Court.

Since 2009, the facility has functioned without financial assistance from the county general fund, despite the imposition of a payment plan for employee pension debt incurred before the joint operating agreement.

The millage expires after one year, at which time the commission can vote to renew it, something that would have to be done on a yearly basis.

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