Services for senior citizens in Madison County could get a boost next year if voters approve a mill levy that will come before them next spring.
On Tuesday, Madison County Commissioners passed a resolution to put a two-mill levy before voters that will raise money for senior services in the county.
If passed, the levy would raise more than $140,000 a year. The levy would increase taxes on a $200,000 home by $6.
The levy is an idea from the Madison County Senior Council, which is a group that was formed last spring to address issues concerning senior citizens in the county, said Madison County Commissioner Marilyn Ross.
The council is comprised of representatives from the four county senior citizen groups that represent Sheridan, Twin Bridges, Ennis, Harrison and Pony, Ross said.
The levy would help address the growing need in the county for senior services, she said.
Madison County, like many rural counties in Montana, is an aging county. In 2008, the largest age group in Madison County was people between the ages of 45 and 69, according to a report compiled by University of Montana economist Larry Swanson. Nearly 45 percent of the population in Madison County is older than 45.
This segment of the population will continue to be the fastest growing segment as baby boomers hit retirement age, Swanson said in his report.
And with the growing number of senior citizens will come an expanding need for services like meals on wheels, transportation and community centers, Ross said.
Currently, Twin Bridges is gathering information, ideas and support toward a senior citizen and community center. Groups in Sheridan and Ennis have also talked about the need for such a facility, she said.
The Hollowtop Senior Citizens have a senior citizen center, but the group is in need of money for transportation, Ross said.
However, this growing need in Madison County is coming at a time when federal and state funding is being cut, she said.
Betty Sykes is the president of Ruby Valley Senior Citizens and has been for 20 years. She is also on the Madison County Senior Council. She’s seen first hand the need for services increase around the Ruby Valley.
“All the people here in Madison County, most of us are getting old,” Sykes said.
The need isn’t just about getting people to and from the doctor or providing them with a meal at home, it’s also about figuring out ways to keep the senior citizens a vibrant part of the community, she said.
“With our Ruby Valley seniors, it’s just getting together once a month,” she said. “It’s very important. There’s people here in town where that’s the only time they get out is for something like that.”
The money raised by the levy would be split equally between the four county senior citizens group, Ross said.
Each group is a non-profit organization and has a board of directors, which would determine how the funds were spent, she said.
“It will be divided among the four senior groups and each group would have the autonomy to decide what they needed most,” Ross said.
The local levy money would be in addition to money each group receives from state and federal sources.
A senior services levy isn’t a new idea, she said. In fact, most counties in southwest Montana have similar levies to support their senior citizens.
“By having that mill levy in place, it would be a solid yearly amount of money that would help in acquiring a new senior center or a place that would help serve their needs,” Ross said. “It really helps take us out of that boom and bust cycle for state and federal money.”