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Aug. 3 to decide senior services future

Should St. Francois County voters approve a property tax ballot issue during next week’s election, area senior citizen services could receive a much needed shot in the arm.

The matter to be decided by voters will be whether or not to approve a five-cent property tax to be used by four senior centers in the county. The estimated $240,000 collected annually would be divided among the four centers to help offset state and federal cuts in funding in recent years.

Statistics from the Southeast Missouri Area on Agency shows funding cuts in 2004 dropping to levels comparable to 2001. Meanwhile program costs have continued to rise, in particular prices for beef and staples such as milk. It’s likely additional cuts could be seen next fiscal year.

The ballot issue was discussed and approved by not only directors for the four nutrition centers, but key groups associated with the centers and other county senior services. The centers serve to not only provide a warm meal, but offer free health screenings, tax preparation assistance, legal advice, and entertainment and socialization in the forms of guest performers and social events.

To fairly divide the revenue rendered from the annual property tax, a board of directors would be established – appointed by the county commission. The centers would then apply to the board for needed supplemental funding.

As an example of how the tax would affect an individual homeowner, a home assessed at $100,000 would be taxed an additional $50. A home assessed at $45,000 would be taxed an additional $22.50 annually.

Mona Yates, director of the Farmington Senior Center, admits the tax would ease some constant concerns at the center. With a mortgage still being paid from a recent move to a new location, Yates says the cuts in state funding have made it a constant battle to make the monthly mortgage payment and have enough left over to purchase food. The center, like the other three, operates on suggested donations – still providing warm meals for those seniors who cannot pay.

Another additional benefit the nutrition centers offer is Meals on Wheels for homebound seniors. A fleet of volunteer drivers use their personal automobiles to shuttle warm meals to hundreds of homebound residents five days a week.

The fact is, as Yates has stated before, if we’re lucky we’ll end up a senior citizen some day. Her concern is taking good care of those who have already arrived at that place.

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