TRAVERSE CITY — Leelanau County commissioners unanimously agreed to put a senior services millage on the August ballot. They approved language for a 4-year renewal at .275 mills.
Senior Services director April Missias expressed concern that keeping the .275 rate will not be enough to meet the needs of county’s growing senior population. The department was forced to start wait lists for several in-home services for the first time this year.
“I felt the .275 will allow us to continue to provide the same level of services we are currently providing, but as we see a growing need for seniors, we may not be able to meet those needs,” Missias said.
Commissioner Melinda Lautner asked Missias at a March 7 meeting if she was comfortable with the .275 rate. Missias answered “no”, according to meeting minutes. Missias asked commissioners to commit to a higher rate.
“She’s a little concerned that it won’t be enough, but I honestly felt like if we put any higher, it’s going to be turned down and then she would have nothing,” Lautner said.
The county’s Senior Service Department provides a variety of services for its population, about one-third of whom are senior citizens. Services range from helping seniors clean their homes and shower to providing respite care for regular caretakers, to heating assistance.
The Senior Services Department cut $250,000 from their current budget and eliminated wellness programs, which included exercise programs.
In a memo to commissioners Missias said her department could cut snow removal, dining and foot care programs to allow more people to receive the most essential services if the millage stays at .275.
Commissioner Carolyn Rentenbach said at a meeting on April 7 that she would have preferred a 2-year millage.
“I can live with .275, but i would like to see it for two years. I think it’s not enough to cover the services we need to offer,” Rentenbach said.