Thursday, October 31st, 2013
By Shelley Grieshop
Council on aging seeks replacement levy
Election November 2013
  CELINA - The Mercer County Council on Aging is seeking a five-year replacement levy with increased millage on Tuesday's ballot.
The proposed property tax would replace a 0.55-mill, five-year renewal levy, and add .15 mills to increase the amount collected annually from about $400,000 to nearly $632,000. The levy is the biggest funding source for the agency.
If passed by voters, a resident with a home valued at $100,000 would pay $24.50 per year - up from about $20. Approximately $2.50 of the $4.50 increase is due to the state's removal of a rollback (tax contribution) on all new replacement levies in 2014, county auditor Randy Grapner said.
The Celina-based agency for the elderly uses the levy dollars exclusively for services; the proposed levy would help provide funds through 2019.
Executive director Karen Howick said the majority of the agency's $500,500 annual budget is used for transportation costs.
"Last year we logged about 115,000 miles," she said, adding the senior citizen transportation van is kept busy most days.
Hired drivers bring the elderly to medical appointments, including regular dialysis treatments and doctor visits, within a 40-mile radius, Howick explained.
The facility on Riley Street also opens its doors Monday through Friday to provide lunch for senior citizens and transports those who can cook for themselves to grocery stores.  
"It costs us about $2 per mile for the vans," she said.
The council on aging also provides homemakers who perform light housekeeping every other week in a client's home, chore crews who do handyman work and an outreach staff that assesses the elderly and helps them navigate Medicare/Medicaid and other insurance issues.
"Some of the paperwork can be so confusing," Howick said.
Another growing expense for the agency is the payment of workers' compensation fees for the 22 full-time staff members. The total cost is expected to climb to $10,000 next year, Howick said.
The council on aging also receives support from the Mercer County Civic Foundation, which provides more than $20,000 each year to help handicap residents younger than 60, elderly with past due housing/utility bills and other expenses not funded by levy dollars.
To raise extra money throughout the year, the agency holds quarterly garage sales. Howick said she believes the services and programs offered are a big benefit for the elderly and their families.
"I do think we're a good value for the community," she added.
The council on aging passed its first levy of 0.35 mills in November 1989. In 2003, a replacement levy with an increase to 0.55 mills was approved at the polls. It was overwhelmingly renewed by voters in 2008 by a tally of 14,046 to 5,487.
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