Commission to review county funding policy for senior centers

Staff reporter

The question was asked Monday whether county tax money that was given to a senior center should come back to the county when that senior center sells a building or closes.

Marion County Department for Elderly Director Jayne Gottschalk asked Marion County Commission for direction regarding such scenarios.

A recent incident regarding the Lehigh Senior Center brought the issue to light when that senior citizen organization sold its building and kept all of the proceeds.

The majority of the building was paid by the Lehigh community with the county contributing $1,500 toward the purchase of land and an additional $4,000 during the next few years toward the original loan.

Recently the organization sold the building and land, and is using the Lehigh City Building as its meeting location. The proceeds from the sale, which was sold on contract, will be placed in endowments — 50 percent for Lehigh parks and recreation and 50 percent in the Hillsboro Community Foundation.

Don Fruechting, a member of Senior Citizens of Marion County, Inc., asked the commission if there was an obligation for proceeds, when a senior center closes or is sold, to be returned to the county.

Commission chairman Randy Dallke said he didn't think there was.

"Senior centers were given to the communities," commissioner Dan Holub said. "The county doesn't have any reason to ask for that money."

Gottschalk emphasized that she doesn't want any of the centers to close and will work diligently to keep them open but wanted to establish a policy or bylaws that would address the issue.

"The Christian thing to do is to give a portion back to the county since the county funds a portion of equipment and operating expenses," Gottschalk said.

The county budgets a specific amount for the elderly department to disperse through the senior citizen corporation. The board of directors of the corporation then approves requests for money from the individual centers.

"If county money was used to maintain the building or county funds were used to purchase the property, should the county receive a portion of the proceeds?" Dallke asked. "I'm not sure what the appropriate thing is to do."

About 90 percent of the county funds given to the centers is used for maintenance and operation, Gottschalk said. Even though the Lehigh center situation is unusual, all agreed that guidelines are needed so centers and the county would have the same expectations.

Gottschalk agreed to gather additional information regarding the amount of tax dollars given to the individual centers and will present the information at a future meeting.