Chairman’s Corner by Scott McGraw

Well, they’re at it again. This time it’s not the Washington liberals. It’s not about Somalian refugees, or wall-hating immigration triads, or gun rights protestors. It’s not the Lansing liberals, either. It’s not about overturning right to work, or Flint’s water crisis, or the teacher’s retirement system. It’s right here in good ol’ Kalamazoo. It’s about another millage, another needy segment of our citizenry, another issue to scream and shout about until they get their way.

This time it’s a senior millage in Kalamazoo County. Another burden on our taxpayers and another cause that needs more money thrown at it. We went through this two years ago when the Public Housing Commission needed a small millage to help the families with children that are living in homelessness in our county. Nearly $800,000 was raised with a .1 mil levy that passed voters in 2015 – and it went on our taxes so quickly (within 30 days of passage) and the commission didn’t even know how to spend their windfall. It took six months for them to even develop a plan.

Well, the same thing is happening all over again. The common thread? An off-year November election where most of the townships aren’t used to having an election. The Dems catch a sleepy electorate in the townships – with mostly conservative voters – and pass these small millage requests.

The only problem is that the senior millage is not so small. They are talking about a .4 to .5 mil request. Why can’t I give you a firm number? They are rushing into this thing with only a few days left before the election deadline and they don’t have a number developed yet. The county’s administration has not had the chance to vet the issue yet. The clerks in the county don’t even have the new election equipment and don’t know how to use it yet. This has disaster written all over it.

The Dems want to generate about $4 million in revenues. What will they spend it on? I don’t know; they don’t know – yet. Once they pass it, they will figure out how it can be spent. They only thing I can assure you of is that they will need a lot of new employees to help spend their windfall.

Let’s analyze this. The issue came up a couple of years ago when the waiting list for meals on wheels was around 135. The county commission authorized giving an additional $325,000 per year for two additional years to help alleviate the problem. What happened? The management at the Area Agency on Aging Region IIIA, which covers Kalamazoo County, chose to spend the money internally on new hires and pay raises instead of helping its partner organizations solve the problem of an excessive waiting list. The result? Three years later we have a waiting list of about 124 seniors. So after blowing through $650,000 the agency wants to add $4 million in annual revenues, close to tripling the size of their organization – tossing aside accountability in a money grab of astronomical proportions.

Let me summarize the issue: Senior Services (a non-profit agency) provides most of the meals on wheels programming in the county. They have a total budget of $18 million, much of it from grants. They have an administrative cost equal to 2% of their budget and serve about 10,000 seniors each year. That’s $1,800 per person served on an annualized basis. AAA in Kalamazoo County has a budget of $2.2 million with an administrative cost of $308,000 annually (14% administration), serving about 300 people during the year. That comes to $7,400 per person served.

If Kalamazoo County had given the $325,000 to Senior Services directly to solve the waiting list problem, we wouldn’t have a waiting list any longer. I cannot fathom giving an organization who’s numbers are this out of whack twice as much money as they are currently getting. This is insane. It makes no sense.

And we don’t have much time to discuss this. This issue will be debated on Wednesday night, Aug. 2, at the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners meeting at 4 p.m.’s Committee of the Whole and at 7 p.m.’s Board Meeting. The Democrats will most likely call a vote on it either that night or within the next week. The question of levy a senior millage will go on the ballot in November unless someone speaks out against this atrocity.

If you are a Republican and are concerned about the amount of money you pay in taxes, I would suggest coming down to the Kalamazoo County Building on Wednesday night and standing up for your voice in this volatile issue. It would be an honor to fight this battle with you.