RENO — Washoe County Commissioners will take a final look into what type of funding to go after in the fall elections Monday — if any at all — to help pay for senior services after hearing from several seniors and other interested groups who say the current spending levels isn’t enough.
With some 71,000 seniors who live under the poverty level, receiving $5,000 a year, the county is looking at three different options to raise $2.4 million a year to boost funds and help pay for services. Commissioners at the meeting, to be held at 8:30 a.m. at the County Commission Chambers, will discuss a resolution about whether to ask voters to enact a Government Services Tax, or GST, on the depreciated value of motor vehicles by one percent to increase funding for senior services, public safety and infrastructure. The average annual increase in cost would be less than $43 per year.
This would provide an estimated $2.4 million into senior services, said Grady Tarbutton, director of the Senior Services Department for Washoe County. Other options discussed previously have been placing on the ballot a question to add another 1 cent or 2 cents as an added ad valorum tax.
The mission of the Washoe County Senior Services Department is to “assist older adult in the community maintain independence, dignity and quality in their lives and that of their caregivers, by providing an array of direct and indirect social, legal and health services and opportunities.”
Those goals are getting more difficult to reach when every dollar is getting stretched thin enough, a breath of air could break it apart. As of this year, 7,000 seniors in the county are in need of some type of assistance from the department. In 2016, Tarbutton estimates that number will grow to 9,000.
“Our services delay people and help people from going into those higher cost services,” Tarbutton said.
At a joint meeting of the city council members of the City of Sparks and Reno, the County Commissioners and the Washoe County School Board this week, one member of the senior citizens advisory board in Reno said 8 percent of seniors are in critical need of nursing care, food, medication and other essentials.
Statistics show that 20 percent of seniors are living at 5,000 dollars a year, she said.
Tarbutton said with the $3.6 million the county currently receives through an ad valorum tax, a 1 cent tax passed in 1985 that provides the county with $1.2 million a year, and additional general fund money, senior services cannot provide all those in need with the proper services required.
“We’re just not keeping pace,” Tarbutton said, speaking of the growing number of those who qualify for senior services in the county.
He provided a snapshot of one sector of the services the county senior services department provides the elderly. The county department currently only serves 99 seniors with home delivered meals out of the 7,000 who qualify.
“Ninety-nine is all we can afford to do right now,” he said.
A waiting list is in place, though it takes one month for a senior to receive a home assessment by a senior services workers. The department provides home care, where workers help clean homes, bathe seniors, prepare meals, shop, pick up medications and provide other services, Tarbutton said.
“Every dollar spendt locally brings in another two from other resources. Another $2.4 million would increase our ability to do that.,” Tarbutton said.
Part of Monday’s discussion would be how much would go for seniors. Commissioners have not a set amount at this point.
“My understanding is ballot measure is advisory, it is not binding,” Tarbutton said.
In the future, Tarbutton estimates that home care numbers, which Nevadans prefer, will increase from 100 to 500 people.
“Nevadans are very independent, it’s as simple as that. They want to stay in their homes. These are the types of services that help them stay there,” he said.