Livingston County's baby boomer population is aging, and it is estimated that if current trends continue, around 40 percent of the county's population will be 60 years of age or older by 2020. By 2030, that percentage is expected to rise to 50 percent. Based on the 2010 census, 24 percent of the county's population is at least 60 years old.
Because of the current population trend and funding cuts, a push is on to establish a Livingston County Senior Citizens Service Fund. Voters will decide on April 2 whether to approve a 5-cent tax per $100 assessed property valuation to help defray costs of programs that help seniors and their care-givers.
Tim Bosler, who is among a group of individuals promoting the measure, said that of the 47 Missouri counties that have placed a similar proposal on the ballot in the past, he was aware of only one county — Buchanan, which sought a 10-cent tax — that had rejected it. Of the 15 counties in northwest Missouri, 11 counties have a Senior Citizens Service Fund.
The tax, if approved, would generate an estimated $78,964 per year for the direct benefit of present and future Livingston County citizens 60 years of age and older.
"This is an approximate average contribution of $5.20 per person, or $13.88 per household per year," Bosler said.
A general formula a property owner may use to determine the new taxes with the Senior Citizens Services Fund in place, is to multiply 1.01 times the dollar amount of the last taxes paid. For example, if a property owner paid $1,000 of personal and real estate taxes in 2012, he or she would pay an additional $10 in 2013 for this fund. The measure needs a simple majority to pass.
Revenues generated to this fund would be dedicated to the Senior Services Fund and could be used only for the improvement of health, nutrition and quality of life of persons living in Livingston County who are 60 years of age or older. The fund would be administered by an independent volunteer board of seven limited term members appointed by the County Commission. The board would be subject to audits and the Sunshine Law.
The main purpose of the fund is to keep seniors healthy and in their homes, Bosler said.
"As long as seniors are at home, they are helping to finance the fund through their tax dollars," he said. "Once seniors leave their homes, they tend to drop out of the community and off the tax rolls."
Bosler said the proposal has been well received in the community, however, the question has been raised about whether the tax is necessary because there currently are good services provided for seniors in Livingston County.
"That is a fair question," Bosler said, noting that the answer is two-fold.
"Federal and state governments are cutting back on funding on the local level," he said. "We have to pick that up. The only way we can pick that up is to go out and beg for contributions."
The other part of the answer is the aging population of baby boomers.
"Our population is going to age at a very accelerated rate," Bosler said. "What generally happens is that when seniors are unable to live independently, they go to where their children are. Generally, that is not Livingston County. Therefore, we lose their purchasing power when they go to Clay County, Platte County, St. Louis, or where their children have gone to make a living."
Bosler emphasized that a goal of the fund is to keep seniors in independent living as long as possible.
"We talk about benefitting seniors, but it also benefits care-givers of seniors," he said. "It can provide transportation for mom and dad, grandma and grandpa to go the doctor so you don't have to take off work to do that. You have satisfaction that someone is bringing them a warm meal to eat everyday."
Community groups or businesses will develop plans to provide senior services in the county and apply to the Board for partial or total funding. The local entity will provide the actual service and report to the board on how the funds were used. The funds could be used for a number of services, such as: helping offset the local costs associated with providing hot meals to individuals at the Senior Center, or to provide transportation funding to deliver congregate meals; helping fund the meal delivery program through Hedrick Medical Center, provide large print and audio books through the library; health services and vaccinations, podiatry services, minor home improvements such as installing ramps and grab bars, and more.
The trend of a growing population of seniors is seen at the senior center. About 10 years ago, the center served fewer than 50 meals per day. Now, more than 80 meals are served to seniors.