Council on Aging tax up for renewal

Ascension Council on Aging officials are hoping a 10-year, 1.5-mill property tax that provides the bulk of the agency’s funding will be renewed for a second time.

The millage, which generates approximately $1.28 million annually and is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, is on the May 4 ballot in Ascension Parish.

Early voting begins Saturday and continues until April 27.

The tax accounts for approximately 83 percent of the Council on Aging’s budget, providing for its programming and capital purchases, said the agency’s executive director, Darlene Schexnayder.

“If this tax does not pass, our services would be cut dramatically and more than half of the staff would be laid off,” Schexnayder said. “There would be no wellness programs to help seniors stay healthy and in their homes longer; all state and federal funding would be used for our core programs such as meals, but it would not be at the level currently served.”

Started in 1973 as a nonprofit agency to provide services for needy minority, disabled and at-risk elderly residents of the parish, the Council on Aging first began receiving the dedicated tax in 1993. It was renewed 10 years ago and is once again up for renewal.

In addition to the money generated by the tax, Schexnayder said, the Council on Aging also receives a smaller amount of federal and state funding, as well as private donations.

That funding is used to provide a number of different services to elderly residents of the parish. Those services include wellness programs, recreation activities, utility assistance, transportation, housekeeping, home delivery of meals and meals at senior centers in Gonzales and Donaldsonville.

“We are one of the only parishes who deliver seven meals a week to clients who are alone without family support,” Schexnayder said. “This current fiscal year, we are on target to deliver over 105,600 meals to vulnerable seniors in Ascension Parish. We will also complete over 33,200 passenger trips on our vehicles traveling over 127,900 miles and perform over 8,000 units of homemaker service. The federal dollars have been cut due to the sequestration, and our state dollars are always in question.”