MOUNT VERNON — Funds generated from the Knox County senior tax levies will now be in the hands of the county commissioners. This announcement comes after the official disbanding of the Knox County Senior Levy Advisory Board in early December.
“When the board was established, its mission was to put into effect how the senior tax levy money would be distributed,” said Jim Kousoulas, chairman of the Knox County SLAB. “There was nothing in effect as to how to distribute the money, what to do with it and how to regulate it.”
The commissioners appointed a board and developed the necessary forms to be used by senior centers around the county requesting funds, according to Kousoulas. Groups that SLAB had previously served included The Sanctuary in Danville, The Place on Market in Danville, Centerburg Senior Citizens, Fredericktown Senior Citizens, The Station Break and Kno-Ho-Co Ashland.
“We were just advisors,” said Kousoulas. “We would advise certain amounts of money based upon interviews with the four main centers plus others who wanted the money. It didn’t matter what we recommended. The commissioners would try to go along with our recommendations.”
Other members who had recently served on SLAB were Carl Miller, Wally Thomen, Pat Davis, Jeannette Updike and Paul Chapman.
“This year, we took a good look at what was going on,” said Kousoulas. “The board really exhausted its usefulness. It was actually duplicating what the commissioners had to do.”
“Because the process has been pretty much perfected, the chairman put a letter out saying they had done their work ... and he felt that it could be done by the commissioners,” said Teresa Bemiller, president of the Knox County Board of Commissioners.
With a senior levy going on the March ballot, Bemiller said that an evaluation will take place after the levy to see what direction needs to be pursued.
“I think the advisory board has served a good purpose; but we’ve also had some issues getting people to serve,” said Bemiller. “We thought this was a good way to go this year, and we can decide next year if we want to go back to the board and see if we want to find people to do this again.”
Bemiller explained that the funds from tax levies are designated as specific line items which are dispersed as they fit following the board’s recommendations. “The disbursement hasn’t changed much for the last few years,” said Bemiller. “It’s stayed pretty steady on who’s getting what.”
Kousoulas expressed his confidence in the commissioners taking over the dispersion of funds.
“They can work off these forms and can interview the centers,” he said. “They’re very adaptive to the senior levy. They know how it works. The commissioners made the ultimate decision; I, as the chairman of the board, recommended this to them. We think things will run smoothly.”
“I thought they did OK with this. We didn’t have any objections with them going forward with our budget,” said Richard Mavis, chairman of The Station Break board. “We’ve always had a good relationship with the commissioners. I have no reservation on how well we’ll work together.”
As mayor of Mount Vernon, Mavis explained that the City of Mount Vernon owns and insures The Station Break building. “They perform all the operations, pay the utilities, and all those sorts of things,” he said. “We basically provide them housing and other benefits for their program.”
Sharing her sentiments on The Station Break’s involvement with the county commissioners was Kelly Lybarger, executive director of The Station Break. “It’s been very helpful. As long as whoever’s looking at the applications understands what they’re looking at and understands the need for this in our county,” said Lybarger. “Our support for the seniors in this community is a very worthwhile thing. Everybody has received services that need them because of this money. We wouldn’t be able to do this otherwise,” she said in urging voters to continue to support the senior levy.