Department of Aging budget battle back on

By The Active Age | May 2, 2022

Sedgwick County Commissioners are once again sparring over spending geared toward older residents.

At their April 6 meeting, 5th District Commissioner Jim Howell reiterated an argument he’s made in the past, that the commission is ignoring the will of county residents and underfunding those Department on Aging services and programs by millions of dollars. In 1982, Howell noted, residents overwhelmingly approved a special property tax for aging programs, authorizing commissioners to collect up to one mill for that purpose. A mill equals one dollar per $1,000 of assessed value.

This year, commissioners set the rate at .44 mill, in effect leaving about $2.7 million on the table.

Meanwhile, Howell said, the number of seniors living in the county is increasing rapidly and inflation is further reducing the services provided by the county.

“There’s great needs and we’re not meeting those needs,” Howell said. “We have a mandate from the people.”

Commission Chairman David Dennis, on the other hand, focused on what he called inequities in how the county distributes the aging funds it collects. Dennis noted that two senior centers in his district — Cheney and Bentley — will get a total of $10,000 from the county, while the Derby center will receive $115,000. Derby is in Howell’s district.

“We need a new way of doing this,” Dennis said.

Howell said Derby qualifies for money based on the large number of people who use it.

After Dennis suggested that commissioners hold a workshop on the issue, Howell said he is “tired of workshops on this topic” and suggested putting the aging services mill levy to another vote of the people.

“It’s time to go back to the people and let them tell us what to do.”

Most of the aging department’s total budget of $12.4 million comes from the federal government.