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May 10, 2016

Muskegon County to Vote on Senior Millage

Muskegon County residents will decide in the Aug. 2 election whether or not to pay a new property tax to fund senior services like Meals on Wheels.

Residents will be asked to approve a 0.5 mill property tax for services to senior citizens. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay about $25 a year.

Money collected by the tax – an estimated $2 million a year – could be allocated to services such as home-delivered meals, homemaker/chore services, bathing and personal care, health and wellness programs, medication management, transportation, and adult day services throughout the county.

The Muskegon County Senior Wellness Committee is seeking the tax.

If approved, Muskegon County would oversee the funds while a committee could review and recommend grant proposals from appropriate agencies, according to a website promoting the tax. An established fiduciary organization would monitor and evaluate the providers, ensuring quality standards and development of future needs, and report back to the community regularly on the use of the millage funding.

In a February presentation to the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners, the Senior Wellness Committee stated that most Michigan counties – 71 of 83 – already have a senior millage tax in place. Ottawa and Kalamazoo counties are the only others in West Michigan without such a tax.

There are almost 36,000 residents over age 60 in Muskegon County, about 21 percent of the county population, according to the Senior Wellness Committee. The number is projected to double in the next 15 years.

"The senior population is only going to continue to grow and people are living a lot longer than ever before," Nancy McCarthy, vice chair of the Muskegon County Senior Wellness Committee.

Committee member Caroline Shircliff said Muskegon County is a "wonderful place to live," and she chose it as her retirement home after living most of her life in Ohio. "The people here are friendly and helpful to each other, and the nature areas are beautiful, but many of my friends and their families are finding it difficult to find services in our area to help seniors stay active and healthy, and able to live in their own homes as long as they'd like. Many seniors are discovering that because they have a modest retirement income, they don't qualify for the help that they need."