Newton County residents will be asked to vote on a levy for the Crowder Industries workshop in the Nov. 5 election.

During a press conference at the workshop Tuesday morning, Mike Franks, a campaign volunteer, presented the levy proposition to area media, as members of the board of directors for Crowder Industries looked on.

"It is a very important day for the Crowder Workshop (Industries)," said Franks. "The Newton County Commission has placed on the ballot a proposed levy to support service for developmentally disabled Newton County residents, such as those employed at Crowder Industries/Workshop. The proposed levy is 6 cents per $100 of assessed property. The cost to the Newton County property owners is very modest. For a homeowner with a house that has an appraised value of $100,000, the annual cost would be $11.40 or 22 cents per week."

Crowder Industries was established in 1969 as authorized by Missouri Senate Bill 52. It is one of 88 Missouri Extended Employment Sheltered Workshops and currently employs 130 people.

"The proposed levy is vitally needed to ensure that the workshop can continue to serve the needs of Newton County's developmentally disabled and support our partner industries," said Franks. "For more than 44 years, the Crowder Workshop has served the needs of the developmentally disabled without any local tax assistance. This is a rare success, as only three other Missouri's 88 workshops operate without local county assistance."

Franks said during the past decade, state assistance for sheltered workshops has stagnated and, in fact, has gone down due to the withholding of appropriations.

"Today, state assistance only provides for 11 percent of the Crowder Workshops' total revenue, while the average for all Missouri workshops is 17.5 percent," he noted. "In fact, 89 percent of all revenues of the Crowder Workshop are generated by our contract services, versus the state average of only 7.4 percent. The loss of key business to foreign competition, declining state assistance and the lack of local county funding have all contributed to a deteriorating financial picture for the Crowder Workshop. However, a very modest amount of local funding is all that is required to 'right our ship.'"

Crowder Workshop remains a supplier to local industries, including La-Z-Boy Midwest, Jarden, Premier Turbines, Marco Group and Nutra Blend.

"It is vitally important for us not to send our developmentally disabled folks home and tell them they have no life beyond the home that they live in," Franks said. "If you talk to the people here and look in the workshop you will see people who live to work. This is the greatest event and the greatest part of their day."

Asked if the levy doesn't pass on Nov. 5, Franks said, "The Crowder Workshop currently is running at a deficit, so we would have to consolidate even more and we have consolidated a lot. But what we don't want to do is look to the future as something that we have to downsize for. We look to a future that will continue to serve at least this many people hopefully more. We are out right now looking for new customers and new services that we can provide. We are very hopeful about some, but we need a stable funding base. And with this small levy, that will bring us in, a small amount of money that is all that we really need to get into the black and to ensure our future."