By Rosemary Horvath
Clare County Commissioners at a special meeting Monday authorized a millage increase for operating senior services.
Voters at the November general election will be asked to have the increase in place eight years beginning this year. The increase is up to 0.2700 of a mill which equals 27 cents per $1,000 of taxable value.
Current millage rate is .48.
An estimated $274,371 will be raised in the first year. A portion of the millage also may be captured by the Downtown Development and Brownfield Authorities in the cities of Clare and Harrison and by the village of Farwell/Surrey Township Local Development Finance Authority per state law.
Lori Ware, senior services director, requested the increase in light of the program exceeding budget estimates. She said $45,000 more has been spent on food and that she had to limit home delivered meals from two to one per day.
Some 10,000 meals were delivered last year, she reported.
Changes to home health care and respite care also were put in place to curb spending.
Over the next 10 years, the program will need an additional $300,000 to break even, she said. Commission on Aging which is a separate program outside of county government is authorized to levy up to one mill for senior services.
The current levy which expires in 2018 and the additional levy, if approved, would equal three-quarters of a mill and expire in 2021.
Commissioners agreed on the suggestion of Commissioner Lynn Grim to stagger the new millage request rather than have both expire simultaneously to avoid having to use the word “increase” in the ballot language in 2018 which the renewal would not be an increase.
Census statistics indicate 500 people in Clare County turn the age of 65 this year. While the county population fell by one percent, the number of older adults increased by 1,000.
Ware referred to taking care of society’s “bookends of life,” which are the children and seniors.
Although the state has allocated the local program an increase of $30,000 in the next fiscal year, Ware calculated a deficit of $75,000 without a millage increase.
Commissioner Jack Kleinhardt said he pays a lot of property tax but that “I’d be hard pressed to argue against giving people meals.”
Commissioner Dale Majewski moved and Kleinhardt seconded and approved to adopt the resolution authorizing a millage election. Commissioner Leonard Strouse was absent.