Partners in Prime wanted to place a levy on the ballot for its senior centers in West Chester Township, Fairfield and Hamilton, as well as independently run centers in Oxford and Middletown. Photo taken at the West Chester Activity Center by Tony Jones after one of the center's air conditioning units stopped working last summer.
Sheila McLaughlin reports
Senior centers in Butler County will have to look elsewhere for money to operate after withdrawing a first-ever request for levy funding.
Partners in Prime Board Chairman Randy Oppenheimer said the decision was made after Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser told the operators of senior centers they cannot designate the $2 million-a-year levy proceeds to the three private agencies that run the centers.
“We would not have been guaranteed we would get the money or in the amount we were putting it on for,” Oppenheimer said.
Money from the new 0.27-mill levy would be subject to the annual county budgeting process instead of going directly to the three senior agencies involved, he said.
“It’s not that I’m against it. I thought it was a fine idea,” Gmoser said. “They just don’t want to have the oversight from the county commissioners. They want the money to be coming direct. You can’t have private enterprises on tax levies for private purposes without any governmental oversight.”
County Commissioner Don Dixon, who has repeatedly proposed establishing a review committee for tax levy requests, said center officials balked at having county officials look over their business model and books before approving a levy for the November ballot.
“I think it was a combination of everything,” Dixon said of the withdrawal of the levy request. “They wanted the money just to come to them.”
The levy, which would have cost owners of a $100,000 home about $8.27 a year, was aimed at helping run Partners in Prime’s senior centers in West Chester Township (West Chester Activity Center), Fairfield and Hamilton, as well as independently run centers in Oxford and Middletown.
The plan called for Partners in Prime to receive 44 percent of the levy funds for center operations. Middletown would receive 41 percent, with Oxford getting 15 percent.
The money, divvied up based on the size of the senior citizen population, was to be used for mortgage and rents, vehicles, fuel, salaries and benefits, food, insurance and programming.
Oppenheimer said the decision to withdraw the levy request doesn’t mean his agency will have to shut down its centers.
“Not tomorrow, not next week or anything, but they can’t run operating deficits forever and ever and ever,” he said. “Anything you do, there’s always a potential for a cutback. We just have to continue trying to raise funds and control very much how we spend them.”
The agency has a budget of $2.1 million and relies on a dwindling pool of grants and donations for some of its money, Oppenheimer said.
As a result, Oxford Senior Citizens Inc. won’t be able to start a new program that was aimed at providing vetted home improvement services, said director Joan Potter-Sommer.
Nor will the agency be able to build a garage for the agencies’ vehicles.
“There’s a lot of programs I would very much like to pursue,” Potter-Sommer said. “They are definitely going to be put on hold.
“We’re going to have to be looking at other funding.”
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