Tuesday, November 14, 2000

More elderly will get help from levy fund

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In the past five months, nearly 800 elderly people have been told to wait when they've asked for help from the Council on Aging of Southwest Ohio.

        Now it appears some of those people will get the assistance they need.

        The agency's waiting list has grown 786 people long since May, when there was no waiting list at all. The people on the list need help with things such as having meals delivered, cleaning, home repairs, bathing and rides to the doctor.

        Robert D. Logan, the council's chief executive officer, said his organization has been struggling with its budget. High fuel prices this summer led to more spending than anticipated this year.

        “To meet our budget expenses in 2001, we had to start slowing client growth in May,” Mr. Logan said. “It's like a locomotive — you have to plan way in advance to slow it down.”

        Elderly services are paid for with a special levy that generates about $15 million annually and provides services for about 6,000 people.

        Hamilton County commissioners said Monday they support a plan that will help get the locomotive back up to speed.

        Agency officials asked for an additional $80,000 — a carry-over that wasn't spent last year — for the remainder of the 2000 fiscal year.

        In addition, commissioners said the agency can spend more on home repairs, medical equipment and transportation for the remainder of the fiscal year. The agency had been limited by contract in the amount it could spend on those items, and had to seek approval for additional spending.

        “We're now to the point where the waiting list can come down,” Mr. Logan said. “We'll be taking people into the program.”

        But there will be a cut in the services provided the next two years.

        The $3.2 million spent on meal delivery this year, for example, will be decreased by $1.5 million in each of the next two years. Likewise, the $732,000 spent on transportation will be trimmed by nearly $100,000 next year and the year after.

        “We always knew that there would be some greater need if we put the levy at any plausible level,” Hamilton County Commissioner Tom Neyer said.

        The special levy will be up for renewal in 2002.

        “We didn't want to go into the funding year spending more than we were taking in,” Mr. Logan said, adding that the council will look for additional federal funds.


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