TRAVERSE CITY — About one-third of Leelanau County’s population is over 60, a percentage that’s expected to grow in the next several years.
Leelanau County’s Senior Services offers a variety of programs to help the county’s burgeoning senior population. About 7,000 of the county’s residents are over 60, said department director April Missias.
The agency will seek more operations money through a planned fall millage campaign, details of which the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners Senior Services Committee will discuss at a meeting this evening.
“We’ll be taking into consideration our senior population and needs,” said county Commissioner Melinda Lautner, who is on the seniors committee. “I think the millage language will be especially important this time around. We want to avoid confusion on what those funds will be used for.”
The county’s last senior services millage, approved in 2008, was a 6-year millage set at a rate of 0.275 mills. But in 2012 the Board of Commissioners lowered that number to 0.19 after it came to light the department’s fund balance ballooned to around $491,703.
The seniors agency spent some of that money and county commissioners subsequently approved boosting the millage rate back up to the original 0.275 mills.
“In years past, the department depended on that fund balance to fund quite a few of the programs we had,” Missias said. “At the end of the year we had little of the fund balance left. We couldn’t rely on it.”
The department had to make cuts to many of its programs this year, Missias said, and several in-home assistance programs now have waiting lists for the first time.
Lautner said she believes there were some needs that weren’t met this year, particularly related to heating assistance and snow removal.
“We just need to try to establish a rate that is going to be able to cover those needs in the future, but not overpack,” Lautner said. “We need to find that correct amount and the correct length of time.”
The committee will meet today at 6 p.m. a t the Government Center.