Jackson County voters will be asked in November whether or not to approve a property tax that would fund programs for senior citizens.
The County Legislature voted unanimously Monday to place the question for a property tax of 5 cents for $100 assessed valuation on the Nov. 6 ballot.
If approved, the tax could generate an estimated $5.3 million per year, county officials say. The county executive would name a seven-member board similar to group that administers the county's children's services tax that voters approved in 2016.
The funds would be distributed to programs that improve health, nutrition and quality for citizens age 60 and older. Advocates have long maintained that – even the normal costs of food and medications – helping seniors with things such as minor home repairs and rides to the doctor can go a long way toward helping them maintain their independence and safely live at home while they still want to.
During the public hearing before Monday's vote, dozens of local seniors and advocates filled the Legislature chambers, making the room standing-room-only for a while.
Scott Burnett, chair of the Legislature, said the ballot measure is one he's been working on for about 20 years – and now he's eligible for it, he joked, though he likely would fall outside the income bracket. Dozens of Missouri counties already have some kind of dedicated tax for senior services. He thanked his fellow legislators for their support on the ordinance.
Representatives from Shepherd's Center, Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City and Phoenix Family all spoke of how the tax would help their various programs and clients, as well as Miriam Alexander from the Palmer Center in Independence.
She spoke of taking a group of senior citizens to a program at the George Owens Nature Park, where they learned about edible plants with nutritional and medicinal value. One senior, she said, noted that they might have to rely on such plants because they didn't have the money to pay for some necessary medication.
Pamela Seymour of Shepherd's Center said the difference a senior services tax could make is “extraordinary” and recalled an elderly relative telling her that, “Aging is not for sissies,” drawing a few laughs from the crowd.
County Executive Frank White also voiced his support for the tax, adding that he was surprised it took that many years to get it on the ballot. Burnett had said earlier that he couldn't get enough agreement from his fellow legislators at the right time to ask the voters.
Legislator Crystal Williams pledged to get organizations that campaigned for the children's services tax to do the same for the senior services tax, adding that many people who attended Monday in support of the ballot measure likely voted for the children's services tax.
“It's time to be reciprocal,” she said.
Legislator Greg Grounds asked for a public hearing at the May legislative meeting for his proposed ordinance of placing a series of questions on county charter amendments on the Aug. 7 primary ballot.
Among the changes Grounds wants to ask the voters: term limits for elected officials, requiring such officials to be up-to-date on taxes, returning county jail administration to the sheriff's office, and grant the Legislature powers to disapprove a county executive's appointment of acting or interim department directors and amend the adopted county budget.
Grounds is not seeking re-election.