It seems to me that all too often we don’t have a clue about how our tax money is used – and the farther away the money goes, the less we know. Those of us in the ever-diminishing ranks who still pay federal income taxes simply ship the money off to Washington where bureaucrats gleefully divvy it up – along with the revenue from other unseen taxes. Nowadays the so-called federal budget consists mainly of monstrous omnibus grants to different agencies and departments that are never audited or otherwise held to account. As for our state income, sales, gasoline, and other taxes, they go into the state treasury where they are allocated as seen fit by those who have the authority to do so – and we likely will never know either the process or results.
As we get closer to home we have a better chance of tracking our taxes, especially when a tax levy is dedicated to some particular activity or enterprise such as schools, libraries, health care, and such. Indeed, we often have the opportunity and responsibility to approve or deny such taxes – and that brings us to the main subject of this column.
One of the best examples of how we in this county have elected to tax ourselves to provide much needed services to our residents is the levy that supports our County Council On Aging – and that levy is on the ballot in the upcoming election. Yep, Issue 7, the Senior Services Levy Renewal, which means it is NOT a tax increase but will simply extend the current taxing level, needs approval if important, even vital, services for our senior citizens are to continue.
How about some facts and figures. The annual tax bill for the owner of the proverbial $100,000 home is $43.95 – that’s about $.85 a week. For those folks fortunate enough to own a $200,000 home the cost is $1.70 a week – those whose home is even more valuable can do their own arithmetic. Regardless, whatever the current tax bill is, it will not increase by approval of this levy.
OK, so what do we get for our money? Well, currently it provides services for about 1,100 seniors a month – an increase of 19 percent since 2014. Another 300 get check-in visits or calls for support. What else? Meals are delivered to those unable to prepare them at home on their own – over 77,000 annually. Some 58,000 service hours for light housekeeping, meal preparation, and laundry are provided annually. In addition, 13,100 service hours are provided each year for personal care such as assistance with bathing and similar personal needs. How about them apples?
Remember those commercials “Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up”? Some 740 such Emergency Response Systems have been installed in seniors’ homes. (My Sweetheart-for-Life has such a “emergency button” which she wears on a cord around her neck. Sure is a comfort when I have to leave her at home alone.)
Unlike the commonly held opinion that everything is “free,” that is, paid for by taxpayers, this is not the case. While these and other services may be partially or wholly subsidized, they are provided on a means-tested basis, that is, seniors may pay a prorated fee based on income. For example, we have light cleaning services arranged by our Council on Aging’s case manager but we pay the full cost – no subsidy – while a long time friend pays a much reduced rate for the same service.
One of the most important services for seniors is that the council on Aging provides a centralized place where we seasoned citizens can go to get answers. You see, we face lots of questions about Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, nursing home and home care, and other matters that are associated with the inevitable progress of aging and we and our families are often not sure where to go. If the council can’t provide the answer, they have multiple linkages to those who can. Believe me, this is an invaluable service.
Well, there you have it, a thumbnail sketch of a truly worthwhile place for our taxes – one that provides demonstrable, critical services to our aging population which is projected to increase by another 16% over the next two years. It’s time for us voters to decide whether we want to continue paying for these services for our county’s seniors or to reject the levy. Issue 7 on the upcoming ballot is where we will register our decision and it’s a “no-brainer.” At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a regular Greene County Daily columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at email@example.com.