Senior levy to reach entire community

Tiffany Ciesicki

Kent League of Women Voters sponsors open forum to discuss $6.7 million levy

Residents of Kent and nearby cities treaded carefully through snow and ice Saturday morning for the opportunity to voice their concerns about a levy that will be placed on the May ballot.

The Kent League of Women Voters sponsored the open forum, which was held at the United Church of Christ in Kent.

The levy will provide $6.7 million toward aiding seniors in the county.

The issue will affect more than the seniors of Portage County. Nancy Hansford, a life-long Kent resident, former Kent mayor and former Portage County commissioner, wanted to stress that point. She said it is becoming an emotional issue and more focus needs to be put on what would be a good decision for the whole community.

“Our young people are important to us, too,” she said.

She said the most important thing is to sit down and talk about how to provide the services.

Everyone at the meeting demanded more information on the way the money from the levy would be spent. Most were also very concerned about the raise in taxes the levy would cause if it passed.

Sally Kelly, director of Portage County Senior Services, said if the levy passes, it will add a property tax of $63 a year per every $100,000 of property value.

Portage County Senior Services is one organization that will be affected if the levy passes.

Kelly addressed concerned and confused residents about this issue.

“I just want to remind people about what the services are and the positive effects of it (the levy),” she said.

With the money, Kelly said, the care coordination program could offer more services. She said seniors don’t always have people around to help them, and they shouldn’t have to be stuck in their houses.

Another big issue for seniors right now is transportation. Though PARTA is helpful, Kelly noted the pick-up and drop-off times do not always conveniently fit people’s schedules, and if someone needs to get to a different city, they need to hop from one bus to the next.

“That’s not always a realistic expectation,” Kelly said.

Anne Moneypenny, of Moneypenny Realty, is a director of the Area Agency on Aging 10B. The agency is a non-profit organization that provides care services to older adults, as well as information for them and their families. She spoke in support of more money for seniors.

From her own experiences, she said she knows many elderly people need help, and that comes at a very high cost. More money could better assist a greater number of seniors.

“There is help out there,” she said. “And help needs support.”

Many came out that morning to hear Joseph Ruby, president and CEO of the Area Agency on Aging 10B, speak. They were disappointed when they found out he would not be attending. Ruby had been out of town, and could not make it to Kent that morning.

Barbara Hipsman-Springer, co-president of the Kent League of Women Voters and associate professor of journalism, apologized for the mix-up, but said she still believed it was important to hold the meeting to discuss the issue rather than turn people away at the door. She said the purpose of the event was to provide information over all else.

“The effect we wanted to have, as a league, was more information, more facts and more debate,” she said. “Democracy grows when information is available.”

She said, most importantly, people need to know how the money will be spent in as much detail as possible.

Hipsman-Springer said the league will make sure questions and concerns brought up at the meeting are passed on to the Area Agency on Aging 10B as well as all three county commissioners. She also mentioned the league will not take a position on the issue.

The Portage County commissioners were informed about the meeting, but they felt they could not make a presentation at that time, Hipsman-Springer said.

A second meeting will be held April 14, and those attending will hear from Ruby and be given the opportunity to have him answer their questions.

Contact public affairs reporter Tiffany Ciesicki at [email protected].