Senior Services Mill Levy Before Voters in June Primary

Apr 18, 2016

Those who provide senior service programs in Yellowstone County are serving more people, and the demand is going to skyrocket.

“We have a silver tsunami happening in Yellowstone County...in the state of Montana,” says Denise Armstrong, the Executive Director of Big Sky Senior Services. She says right now one in five in the county is over the age of 60. That will grow to one in four in the next four years as more the Baby Boomers retire.

”We cannot keep up with all of the demand for all of the services we offer through our agencies in Billings, through Adult Resource Alliance, through Big Sky Senior Services," Armstrong says. "The community centers are seeing a real increase in the need for their services. It’s all to keep our seniors independent.”

To keep up with that demand it’s going to take more money. That’s why Yellowstone County is turning to the tax payers for help. On the June 7, 2016 primary ballot   voters will be asked to approve a 1.73 mill levy increase.

Bea Ann Melichar talking about the Yes for YES (Yellowstone Elder Services) levy on the June 7, 2016 primary election ballot at a recent public meeting in Billings. The money from the levy pays for programs, like Meals on Wheels, that allow seniors to remain in their homes.
Credit Jackie Yamanaka

Bea Ann Melichar, with Adult Resource Alliance, says it’s been a decade since this issue has come before Yellowstone County voters.

“We are trying to be good stewards of all the money we receive. But with the increase in the population and the increase in requests for services, it was just time,” says Melichar. “We have been talking about it for 2 years to be sure we had the timing right and all the information was there, so people would understand how important it is.”

One of the programs that will benefit if the mill levy increase passes is Meals on Wheels.

Bill Brown has been delivering these meals for 25 years.  Not only does this program provide a hot nutritious meal but also has someone checking in on these seniors.

” Sometimes we are the only ones they see all day," Brown says. "I have had 3 or 4 occasions where they have fallen and unable to get themselves up. I either have to help them or call 911.”

It is estimated that 1 in 8 Montana seniors will experience hunger on a regular basis, and in Yellowstone County the Meals on Wheels program will increase 33% in the next four years.

Other programs that will benefit from an increase in funding includes for Senior Helping Hands, transportation, senior dinner program  and other services that help seniors stay in their own home.

Those involved in senior service programs anticipate that one in four families in the county will require care giving assistance by 2025.

The mill levy increase equates to $4.67 on a $200,000 home, or about $0.39 a month.

The ballots for the June primary will be mailed out on May 13, 2016.