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Published: Wednesday, 7/26/2006

Monroe County senior services plan approved

MONROE - Monroe County commissioners last night approved the Area Agency on Aging 1-B's plan for the 2007-09 fiscal period.

Commissioners J. Henry Lievens, Dale Zorn, and N. Randy Ansel said they voted against the plan, which passed 5-3, because they believe the county's seniors deserve a larger share of state and federal funding. Commissioner William Sisk did not attend the meeting.

"I am not rejecting senior services this evening, I am voting for more money for these services," Mr. Ansel said.

In the approved plan, $1.6 million a year in state and federal funds will go toward senior services, said Jim McGuire, director of planning and advocacy for Area Agency on Aging 1-B.

Aaron Simonton, executive director of the Monroe Senior Center, argued against the plan.

"With this amount of funding we will not be able to meet the needs of our growing senior citizen population," Mr. Simonton said. "Monroe County is not getting its fare share of the money."

The Area Agency on Aging 1-B will distribute about $20 million to the six counties it serves in Michigan: Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw, and St. Clair counties.

Terri Hamad, director of the Monroe County Commission on Aging, said about 21,500 senior citizens are in Monroe County.

Mr. McGuire said the amount of funding distributed to each of these counties is based on the size of each county's senior population, its percent of low-income seniors, and its number of senior minority citizens. He said the amount of funding to each county is generally only reviewed when new U.S. Census numbers are released.

He said he has never had a board of commissioners reject his agency's support.

Only Macomb County, which plans to vote on it next week, has not yet approved his 2007-09 fiscal proposal.

The senior population in Monroe County increased by about 14 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to the 2000 census report. The county's tax for senior services brought in about $2.9 million for 2006, according to Monroe County Commission on Aging figures that Ms. Hamad distributed.

"Together, with the money coming in from the area agency, this means nearly $5 million a year goes toward senior programs and agencies in our county," she said. "You would be hard pressed to find that much money going toward seniors in other counties around here."

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