MOUNT VERNON — Jim Kousoulas and Carl Miller of the Senior Levy Advisory Board met with the Knox County Commissioners late Monday afternoon about the dispersal of funds collected from the tax levy to benefit seniors. The meeting resulted in the tabling of a decision which was previously thought to be a “done deal.”
The SLAB is charged with advising the commissioners on dispersal of funds, which it had done through a report submitted last week. Monday’s meeting was described by commissioner Allen Stockberger as a way to let SLAB know the commissioners did not follow the advice, before members of the levy board read about it in the newspaper. The commissioners redistributed the funds according to their own discussions and passed a resolution last Thursday which upped some recommended recipients by thousands of dollars, while cutting one virtually in half.
SLAB recommended an appropriation of $24,000 for the seniors program in Fredericktown, which the commissioners raised to $31,000. They slightly lowered the amount Centerburg’s seniors program would get from the advised $149,000 to $148,000. The Retired Senior Volunteer Program, advised at $3,500, was boosted to $5,000. The Sew Special Network (That Place on Market, in Danville) was reduced to $5,000 from SLAB’s recommended $9,000, while The Sanctuary in Danville was to be cut to $135,000 from the recommended $140,000. Mount Vernon’s Station Break Senior Center was to be adjusted up from the advised $544,500 to $546,000. The only two figures which the commissioners and the advisory board agreed on were that the total amount being disbursed was $870,000, and that the Knox County Health Department should not receive any of it, as it offers services duplicated by other senior organizations.
The SLAB members were not enthusiastic about the commissioners’ decision.
“We feel we’ve done the best we can, and you’re second guessing it,” Kousoulas said.
He said the lower figure for the Fredericktown senior center was proposed to encourage the facility to take donations and do some fund-raising of its own. The higher figure for the Sew Special Network was to allow greater flexibility for volunteer director Marsha Frantisak, whom Kousoulas said has done an outstanding job at building up a creative socialization program for seniors that also has some income from the seniors’ creative projects.
Kousoulas said, and Miller agreed, that with having virtually no guidelines from the commissioners on how to disburse the levy funds, they had worked extensively to come up with and apply standard measurements to all the applicants.
“We tried to get away from percentages and pay attention to services and seniors,” Kousoulas said, strongly urging the commissioners to reconsider their previous resolution and go with the figures SLAB advised.
Stockberger said that was fine with him; Commissioner Robert Wise suggested splitting the difference.
Commissioner Teresa Bemiller said she wasn’t expecting the meeting to revisit those figures at all, considering that a resolution had already been passed. In her questions, Bemiller returned repeatedly to the figures for the Fredericktown senior center and asked why it was so low.
Kousoulas said SLAB didn’t recommend more because it felt the Fredericktown facility was offering basic socialization for seniors, but not engaging them in creative socialization like Sew Special Network or RSVP. Later, Bemiller asked again, and received the same answer. Bemiller said she’d like to talk with SLAB member Jim Dunham, the board’s Fredericktown representative.
Stockberger said he didn’t think Bemiller should talk with Dunham outside the context of a general meeting.
“I want some information that you two don’t seem to need,” Bemiller said, gesturing to Stockberger and Wise.
“Well, go ahead then,” Stockberger said.
Stockberger expressed the commissioners’ thanks to SLAB, and said it did a superior job with insufficient guidelines from the county. He also reminded Kousoulas that SLAB was working in an advisory function, not a governing one, therefore its recommendations might not be implemented. Kousoulas apologized for pushing the issue hard and said he would try to keep in mind that SLAB is there to offer advice.
The matter was tabled, pending further research. The advisors and commissioners are slated to meet again Monday at 9:30 a.m. to resolve the levy disbursement.