It seems to me that one consequence of being a local columnist in a local newspaper is that readers expect me to address issues of local concern. That’s probably why I recently was faced with Betty, a petite seasoned citizen with beautiful white hair who, pulling herself up to her full height of well under five feet, asked me to “write about the upcoming senior citizens tax levy. It’s important.”
Frankly, I wasn’t aware there was a senior citizens tax levy on the ballot, but, since she asked me, I looked into it and here’s what I found.
Back in 1979 a group of interested and concerned citizens started an effort to understand better what services and programs were available to our county’s senior citizens. This effort led to the not-for-profit incorporation in 1981 of The Greene County Council on Aging. In 1996 the Greene County Commission, recognizing the importance of this work, allocated $150,000 in support of the program.
This support continued through 1999 when a 0.8 mil tax levy was passed and then replaced in 2004. In 2009 a 1.0 mil levy was passed by over 65 percent of the voters but expires at the end of 2014 and that’s why this levy is on the ballot now.
OK, how about some facts and figures. To start with the number of seniors currently receiving services has increased by 46% since the 2009 levy was passed.
That’s not surprising because studies show an ever-growing population of folks 60 and older in our county. (An increase of over 17% from 2010 through 2015 and another 16 percent projected between 2015 and 2020.)
A primary objective of the council is to help seniors who need some type of assistance maintaining themselves in their own or a family member’s home. To that end over 57,000 nutritious meals are delivered annually to those unable to prepare meals at home on their own. (A very dear friend, Jim, told me this service not only provided great food but a very welcome visit by the deliverer - one of the very few callers he had on any given day.)
Over 53,000 service hours are expended annually providing light housekeeping, including laundry, and nearly 16,000 hours in providing personal care such as assistance in bathing and other personal needs.
Over 580 senior homes have those Emergency Response/Lifeline units installed — almost a 50 percent increase since 2009. Betty, who is widowed and lives alone, has one of these “Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up” devices. In addition 925 seniors a month receive one or more purchased services and another 260 get check-in calls/visits for support. But wait, there’s more.
A little under 25 percent of the council’s money is used to provide grant money to the 10 area senior centers. This supplements other funds received or raised by the centers and helps provide additional transportation services and other support services offered by the centers. For example, back when I was a substitute transportation driver for a senior center I recall one on my regular passengers was a wheelchair-bound lady I took to and from her dialysis treatment.
Oh, yes, one more very important fact. The cost of general administration and fundraising is only 3 percent of the budget! Folks, that’s remarkably low.
OK, down to the nitty-gritty of dollars. The upcoming senior citizens tax levy is for a renewal of the existing 1 mil tax plus an additional 0.4 mils. The renewal will not raise our taxes! The additional 0.4 mils will result in a tax increase of $14 a year on a $100K home which amounts to less than the cost of a cup of coffee a month at Micky D’s. The monthly increase on a $200K home is about the same as the cost of a quarter pounder cheeseburger - no fries.
Don’t know about you, but I get tired of seeing tax money shipped off somewhere to be spent or given away by faceless, well-paid bureaucrats on programs we never heard of and for which there is little, if any, accountability.
Folks, this is our local money used by a home-grown organization to provide much needed services for our own people. This money stays here. Betty is right! This is important! It’s not only important that we take care of our elderly friends and neighbors, but it’s important that we “put our money where our mouth is” as the saying goes.
Here in our county we enjoy our small town/rural lifestyle that goes deep into what makes this country great. We take pride in our communities and here is a low-cost, efficiently run, community-based effort that deserves our support. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at email@example.com.