2018-08-09 / Front Page

County ups funds for senior program

Millage increase approved
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


TIM WADE of Elmwood Township was among dozens of volunteers who placed “Vote Yes” signs in various locations around the county leading up to this week’s successful Senior Millage vote. Volunteers began removing the signs Wednesday morning. TIM WADE of Elmwood Township was among dozens of volunteers who placed “Vote Yes” signs in various locations around the county leading up to this week’s successful Senior Millage vote. Volunteers began removing the signs Wednesday morning. A rapidly-aging population of Leelanau County voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a millage increase to support the county’s Senior Services Department.

Currently, taxpayers are paying a property tax rate of 0.275 mill to support programs for county residents over the age of 60. That rate was approved four years ago and is expiring this year.

Voters in the Primary Election approved a 0.32-mill levy for the next two years. The vote was 5,696 in favor and 2,133 opposed.

The head of the county’s Senior Services Department, April Missias, said she is pleased — but not surprised — by the 72-percent margin of victory.

“It’s a huge win in that it’s the first time we’ve raised the millage rate for Senior Services,” Missias said. “Clearly, the community is responding to the changing demographics of our population.

“I recognize the significance of this victory and am ready to move forward to enhance our current programs and explore ideas, new approaches, and programs that will promote aging well in Leelanau County for all seniors,” Missias added.

Although Leelanau County’s overall population has remained steady at around 21,700 people in this decade, the percentage of those over the age of 60 has been increasing more quickly than anywhere else in Michigan. Within the next three years, it’s possible that more than 50 percent of the population eligible to vote in Leelanau County will be age 60 or older, according to Missias.

Elmwood Township resident Betty Bushey was among the many seniors who voted “yes” on the millage proposal.

“I’m really happy that it passed,” Bushey said. “As a senior myself, I believe Leelanau County’s senior citizens deserve all the help and support they can get.”

The number of people who have requested services from the department in recent years has increased to the extent that “means testing” was applied for certain services last year that previously would have been provided to anyone. Last year, the county found it necessary to dip into its general fund to stabilize the department’s budget.

Patricia Soutas-Little represents Leland and Centerville Townships on the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners and also serves as a member of the Senior Services Advisory Board.

“I am grateful to all voters for their support of the senior millage,” Soutas- Little said Tuesday morning. “The extra funds will help our senior services department focus on prevention— helping seniors to stay active, engaged and healthy and remain in their own homes if they so choose.”

Currently, only seniors who meet certain income and asset guidelines are eligible for certain services including personal care, respite care, homemaking, medication management, financial assistance in a variety of categories, and food coupons.

The higher millage rate will allow the Senior Services Department to continue offering current programs and services as well as add a few to help the increasing senior population.

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