Funding cut for Norway Senior Center

IRON MOUNTAIN — The Norway Senior Center will see a funding cut of nearly $10,000 next year while four other centers will get a slight increase under a Dickinson County millage distribution plan the county board approved Monday by a 3-2 vote.

Commissioner John Degenaer Jr., who voted no, plans to protest the funding reduction to state officials in Lansing.

“This has to be agreed to by the centers,” he said, claiming it was improper for the board to follow the recommendation of the executive committee of the Dickinson-Iron Community Services Agency’s governing board.

The Norway center, which broke away from DICSA’s noon meal program in 2016, serves congregate meals but relies on DICSA for home-delivered meals, said County Clerk Dolly Cook, a member of the DICSA board.

“Norway will not pay for home-delivered meals,” she said, noting the funding cut for Norway represents less than one-fourth of DICSA’s cost for that service. In addition to a county millage allocation, the Norway center receives senior meals funding provided through the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress, Cook noted.

County Board Chairman Henry Wender and commissioners Ann Martin and Joe Stevens supported DICSA’s funding recommendation, while commissioner Barbara Kramer joined Degenaer in voting no.

After the vote, Stevens offered a motion to involve the county board with DICSA in further negotiations for Norway’s allocation, but there was no support.

A county-wide levy of 0.4 mills, or 40 cents per $1,000 of taxable value, will generate $388,500 for senior programs in 2018. The allocations approved by the county board are:

— $269,000 for DICSA itself, up from $248,940 in 2018.

— $39,645 for the Crystal Lake Senior Center in Iron Mountain, up from $39,144.

— $25,000 for the Norway Senior Center, down from $34,794.

— $23,901 each for the Breen Senior Center in Kingsford and the Sagola Senior Center, up from $23,400 each.

— $7,053 for the Felch Senior Center, up from $6,552.

Degenaer suggested the millage money be distributed equally to the six centers, or that Norway at least receive the same as last year with DICSA’s share reduced to cover it. Norway’s requested allocation was $88,000.

Voters in the city of Norway, Norway Township and Waucedah Township approved a new millage levy for the Norway center in August. That levy of 0.5 mills, or 50 cents per $1,000 of taxable value, won’t take effect until the end of 2019, generating nearly $80,000 for the 2020 budget year. Norway area taxpayers also pay the county-wide senior millage levy of 0.4 mills.

Kristin Summerfeld, DICSA executive director, said the county-wide millage covers the gap between what DICSA receives in grant funding and program income and the actual cost to operate programs.

The increase in DICSA’s funding request is due to several factors, including a mandated minimum wage increase, a growing number of clients needing home-delivered meals, more miles driven to deliver the meals, rising food costs, lower congregate participation, declining donation rates, and a high demand for transportation services, in-home services and adult day care, Summerfeld said.

Countywide, DICSA provides nearly 68,000 home-delivered meals annually, compared with 15,200 congregate meals.

“Grant funds don’t keep up,” Summerfeld told the board, noting DICSA operates 15 programs in all. Although the Norway center serves its own congregate meals, DICSA continues to provide other senior services to the Norway area.

Degenaer said DICSA is “picking on the Norway group” with its funding cut. He accused DICSA of “double-dipping” because very few congregate meals are served at the Crystal Lake Center, which is dedicated to preparing home-delivered meals.