Board OKs funding for Dickinson senior centers

IRON MOUNTAIN — Funding for senior citizen centers in Dickinson County will mostly stay the same under a millage distribution plan approved Monday by the county board.

A county-wide levy of 0.4 mills, or 40 cents per $1,000 of taxable value, will generate nearly $400,000 for senior programs in 2018. Of that, about $249,000 will go to the Dickinson-Iron Community Services Agency, with $127,290 remaining for the respective centers once other obligations are met.

Only the Norway Senior Center — which broke away from DICSA’s noon meal program in 2016 — will see a slight cut. Norway’s planned allocation for 2018 is $34,794, down from $36,241 this year. The Norway center declined an invitation to be represented at an October meeting to discuss the distributions, said Sandra Essendrup, DICSA executive director.

Allocations for other centers will stay the same, as follows:

— Crystal Lake Senior Center, Iron Mountain, $39,144.

— Breen Senior Center, Kingsford, $23,400.

— Sagola Senior Center, $23,400.

— Felch Senior Center, $6,552.

DICSA’s share is up by $9,385 to cover increased operating expenses for home-delivered meals, in-home services, adult day care and other programs. The agency had a big increase in home-delivered meals this year — up about 21,000 — while the number of meals served at congregate sites has declined, Essendrup said.

If the trend towards home-delivered meals continues, DICSA may have to start a waiting list, something it has so far avoided, she added.

“A lot of people depend on these services,” Commissioner Joe Stevens said.

The county captures an administrative fee of $11,970, or 3 percent, from the senior millage levy. Additional funds will be needed for repayments ordered as a result of Michigan Tax Tribunal appeals and settlements.

In other action Monday, the county board:

— Received meeting minutes from the DICSA Governing Board indicating Essendrup has resigned as executive director, effective Dec. 29.

— Received a report from Equalization Director Sid Bray on the impact of Michigan Tax Tribunal appeals on county revenues. Verso Corp.’s recent settlement with Breitung Township represents a loss of $107,180 in 2017 to the county budget. Commissioner John Degenaer Jr. called the reduced valuation for the Verso mill in Quinnesec “outrageous.” Stevens said he wants Verso “to be in our backyard” but finds it disheartening the mill now has a taxable value of just $11 million. The taxable value of the mill is dropping by $17 million — or 61 percent — under the new agreement.

— In a 4-1 vote, approved a request from Judge Christopher Ninomiya to post and fill a full-time district court senior clerk vacancy. Degenaer voted no, saying the county lacks money for the position and should refrain from micro-managing court staffing. Ninomiya said the position is required by statute. He noted that earlier this year he voluntarily reduced a full-time vacancy in the court to a half-time position. Board Chairman Henry Wender pointed to court positions as “revenue-makers for the county” because they are needed to collect fines and fees. Other commissioners speculated if someone is promoted to the position, the resulting vacancy could go unfilled.

— Heard Stevens compliment Dickinson County Healthcare System and volunteers for serving more than 600 free meals on Thanksgiving Day.