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Senior center utility tax fails

by Susie Vasquez
Staff Writer

Plans to fund a new senior center with a 1.5 percent utility tax died for lack of a motion Thursday, following a public outcry that overwhelmingly opposed the move.

“We will give voters a chance to choose the funding mechanism,” said commission chair Jim Baushke. “We’ll see what happens at the ballot box.”

Baushke urged supporters of the center to get out and support the cause, and he wants the residents of Douglas County to know and stick to the facts.



“We have to think realistically about the needs of the county and the demographics it serves,” he said. “We are the safety net. No one below us can do that. The county has to and that’s true all over the United States.”

Scott Morgan, community service director, said commissioners struggled with this issue, but there has never been a question of the value or importance of a senior center in Douglas County. The issue has always been funding the project.



Douglas County commissioners narrowly approved a plan to build a new senior center in early January. Thursday’s approval would have completed the issue.

It also would have come on the heels of a similar advisory question voters denied in 2004.

“We all agree the need for a senior center needs to be critically addressed,” said commissioner David Brady. “But considering the vote in 2004, this utility tax proposal erodes public trust and accountability.

‘We need to take this issue to the ballot, bring it back as an advisory question and be clear about the funding source,” he said.

Time is money, but the democratic process is important, Brady said.

“The democratic process is not cheap.”

Designed to accommodate Douglas County’s burgeoning senior population, the new 24,800-square-foot center would be located on 25 acres known as the Bently Depot Yard, northeast of Highway 395 in Minden.

The proposed facility would include a large commercial kitchen to provide meals on wheels and a much-needed expanded lunch program in addition to a large dining room and a senior daycare facility, deemed crucial by the Senior Advisory Committee.

Additional amenities would be added during the next two phases of the project.

Had the 1.5-percent fee been approved, it would have cost the average household $31.50 a year, according to the estimates provided.

Commissioner Kelly Kite said more than 25 percent of spousal caregivers either die or end up in a home before the more debilitated partner dies. Medicaid will pick up the tab for full-time nursing care only after every financial asset has been depleted.

“If they can’t come up with the $3,500 to $4,500 per month for nursing care, the money comes out of their house until it’s gone,” he said. “We’re talking about $31 a year from each household, versus running someone out of their home.

Douglas County voters rejected Question One, a proposal to fund a new senior center, community center and fine arts facility using the same funding source when it came before the voters in 2004.

The state allows counties to levy up to 5 percent utility tax, which would have brought an estimated $850,000 annually to fund the center.

Designed to accommodate Douglas County’s burgeoning senior population, the new 24,800-square-foot center would be located on 25 acres known as the Bently Depot Yard, northeast of Highway 395 in Minden.