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Tuesday is decision day for a levy request that is the first of its kind in Oregon.
Voters in the city will decide on a five-year, 0.5-mill tax that would be used to maintain and improve senior services, especially transportation for shut-ins. It will appear on the ballot as Issue 7. If adopted, the levy would generate $200,000 annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $17.50 per year.
Bob Marquette, chairman of the Oregon Senior Center board, said the panel has been planning for this levy request since 2011, when it became apparent that the center’s growing membership and shrinking revenue “did not correspond.”
He noted that while the senior center receives funding from the city, it has never asked voters for money until now. Passage of the levy would mean a reliable, dedicated revenue stream for senior services that could be provided across Oregon, including in the municipal complex, he said.
He said that last year, the senior center received $34,500 in operating funds from the city, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
“Nine years ago, our budget was $10,000 more than it is today, and our membership was only 100. Today, our membership is over 400,” he explained, adding that the senior center’s 2012 budget was $106,000, of which its largest component, $63,000, came from the Area Office on Aging.
Mr. Marquette said the center’s most pressing need at the moment is for a new van to assist seniors in need of transportation. “We need a new van in the worst way. The one we have has more than 200,000 miles on it.”
The senior center provides rides to appointments and personal errands across the city. “We’re not limited to medical-oriented trips. We take them to and from the center and make trips such as to the grocery store. Some have absolutely no means of transportation, because they don’t or can’t drive and their kids live out of town. Our transportation is the only means some of them have to get out of the house and socialize. This is an invaluable service to them,” he said.
Mr. Marquette said the senior center currently has one full-time employee and five part-timers. If voters approve the levy, it would hire one more person to work part-time to full-time to help with administration and the coordination of new programs, which could include legal assistance and health and fitness classes.
The James “Wes” Hancock Senior Center is at 5760 Bayshore Rd., in a rent-free, city-owned building that used to be a sewer-plant lift station.
Karen McConnell, a volunteer and board member at the center, said she has been telling voters about “the security the levy would give us. Because we would like to do more, we need more.”
Mr. Marquette said he has even visited soccer games at Oregon’s South Complex to make the case for the levy to young parents, reminding them that senior center members visit the elementary schools after classes and read to young children. “There’s more to the levy than just dollars and cents,” he said.