November levy mulled for Elderly Services Program as enrollment, expenses both on the rise

Enrollment, expenses both on the rise

By John Hamilton -

WILMINGTON — Changes to Clinton County’s Elderly Services Program (ESP) could be coming, including a levy on the November ballot.

At Monday’s Clinton County Commissioners meeting, members of the ESP’s Advisory and the Council on Aging (COA) recommended funding and eligibility changes to sustain the program’s future.

Ken Wilson from the Council on Aging spoke to commissioners about the program, the support it has received, and the possible options for a new levy.

In a presentation to the commissioners, the groups said the program provides in-home care services including home-delivered meals, homemaking, personal care, and transportation to more than 600 people.

To be eligible for the program, the person must be a resident of Clinton County age 65 and older, and needs help with “two or more everyday activities that we all take for granted,” said Wilson.

Enrollment for the program grew by more than 34 perfect since 2008, according to the presentation. This was due to community outreach, changes to improve quality and service levels, and the county’s growing aging population.

While COA and other associates have been able to manage it without a waiting list since 2014, growth has reached a point that is driving up costs for some services.

“The Elderly Service Program has had a strong history of support from voters in Clinton County,” said Wilson. “The last two times the levy was on the ballot, 76 percent of the voters voted in favor of it.”

The program is currently funded by a senior services tax levy which expires in 2022. Wilson noted the levy was supported by the community when first put to voters in 1998, along with other times the levy appeared on the ballot.

The current 1.5-mill levy generates $1.2 million annually and costs homeowners $37.67 per year per $100,000 of property value, according to Wilson.

Wilson told the commissioners certain program aspects would be affected if it didn’t get proper funding. These included home care services, home-delivered meals, and intake and care management.

The groups presented four options that would bring the program within its operating budget — increasing it to $1.8 million; to $2 million; to $2.2 million; or renewal of the existing levy ($1,241,561 annually).

The advisory council and COA recommend increasing it to $2 million annually.

“Recognizing that the senior population is growing, we need to make sure we make some changes to the program to make sure it’s sustainable in the long run,” said Wilson.

The commissioners were presented with a projection for the levy cycle from 2023 to 2027 if the COA’s recommended plan were supported.

Commissioner Kerry Steed asked Wilson if they could make a levy cycle projection for the other options so that there could be a comparison.

Enrollment, expenses both on the rise

By John Hamilton

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574