The Ohio election is only 18 days away and many key state-wide issues will be on the ballot. However, there is one local issue that we believe deserves voters' attention: the two replacement levies of the Van Wert County Council on Aging.
The work the COA performs in the county for seniors is vital. The agency provides transportation services for seniors, not only for mundane day-to-day tasks like shopping, but also for doctor's visits and prescriptions. The transportation services have also been utilized for real life-or-death situations like dialysis and cancer treatments.
There are many families that can not afford to take time off from work three or four days per week for long-term treatments like dialysis. This program allows seniors to retain as much self-sufficiency as possible.
The COA also provides lunches to seniors everyday for a small fee of $2, usually feeding between 50-75 persons per day. For some of the seniors, this meal regularly constitutes the only hot meal they receive on a daily basis.
The agency also provides valuable information to its participants. As recently as yesterday, the COA provided a seminar on Medicare Part B. Representatives from the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP) in Columbus were in the facility to help with sign-up for Plan B and offer answers to questions. Also at the seminar were representatives for a Lima law firm and they spoke about Medicaid issues. The agency has also in the past had other speakers come in to discuss wills and estates, among other topics that were timely and important to seniors.
The COA also offers programs like chore service (i.e. mowing yards, minor house repairs, etc.). Not be underestimated is the value of having a place for senior social activities as well. No one wants to hear about seniors being shut away behind their doors and the COA provides a safe environment to be able to gather and spend time with their peers.
Perhaps the most important item to remember is just how many people the COA helps in the county. Executive Director Cindy Wood has spoken in the past about how much the number of participants in the programs grew when the move was made to the facility on Fox Rd. a few years ago. Nearly a third of Van Wert County's population over the age of 65 is signed up at the COA and utilizes at least some of the services.
What is amazing is the COA has been able to provide all of these services while still maintaining good fiscal responsibility. When compared to other Council on Aging agencies around the state, Van Wert's administrative salary costs are right at the average of between 8.5-9 percent of gross revenues. This is much better than even Allen County which runs at 15.6 percent, according to the most recently released reports.
Both of these levies have been in place for many years. One is a five-year, .2 mill issue that is split 84/16 with the Delphos Senior Citizens Center. This split is decided by the population of people in the city who live in Van Wert County. The second levy is a five-year, .25 mill issue with 100 percent of the funds going to the Van Wert COA.
Both issues are replacements, which means the millage has not changed but the tax will be based upon the recent re-evaluation of property values. Even so, if both levies pass together they will only cost the owner of a $100,000 home $3.75 per month.
One important item to remember on election day is that both levies must pass for the COA to survive and stay open. Passage of only one will only delay the closing of the agency's doors next year. Also, another try at passage of the levies next spring is impossible because funds approved next year would not be collected until 2013, meaning the doors will already be shut for the facility.
We feel that the amount of services the COA provides to county residents is amazing considering the small investment per person. We urge everyone to vote for both Council on Aging levies on election day.