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Trumbull officials weigh senior levy increase

WARREN — Trumbull County commissioners reviewed some of the options for a proposed senior levy that may be placed on the November general election ballot.

Diane Siskowic-Jurkovic, administrator of the senior levy, suggested the commissioners approve a replacement levy that would allow the 0.75 mill levy to collect more in current property tax percentage amounts without increasing the annual millage.

Siskowic-Jurkovic spoke to the commissioners during Tuesday’s workshop meeting in order to gauge their support over which levy proposal option — replacement, renewal, increasing the levy amount from 0.75 mills to 1 mill, or a combination of a renewal / additional — would be best.

Board President Denny Malloy and Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa each expressed some concern about placing any levy on the ballot during this period because many Trumbull residents feel financially overburdened and over-taxed.

Commissioner Niki Frenchko did not attend Tuesday’s workshop.

Cantalamessa emphasized that it is up to the senior levy board to provide the commissioners with a specific recommendation on which levy proposal it believes should be placed on the ballot and why.

The 11-member commission is expected to next meet in early June. Language for any levy approach must be submitted to the Trumbull County Board of Elections by the first week of August.

It will take several votes by the levy commission board and county commissioners to get the language on the ballot.

With a voter-approved replacement, the senior levy would collect $1,000,035 more in property taxes per year, adding an annual increase of $10.35 in taxes on properties with an assessed value of $100,000. Currently, these property owners pay approximately $18 a year in property taxes for the senior levy. The senior levy collects $2.5 million annually to provide a variety of programs including in-home assistance, transportation, meals and others.

“We already have waiting lists for services in the meal programs, in the homemaker programs,” Siskowic-Jurkovic said. “People question why we support senior centers. These centers keep people moving, which reduce the need for them to use the homemaker programs. We want to keep people moving, reducing their chances for injury.”

The extra $1 million will allow the program to expand the opportunity to provide current services, some of which have long wait lists before seniors are considered for assistance.

Another option for the commissioners to consider would be to ask voters to renew the current five-year 0.75 mill levy. A renewal would fix the dollar amount collected to percentages established when the senior levy first passed in 2005.

Siskowic-Jurkovic argues the price of all of its services has increased over the last 19 years and the number of people being served has significantly increased since that time.

Increasing the levy from 0.75 mill to 1 mill would increase the amount collected to $4 million a year.

“We don’t need that much,” Siskowic-Jurkovic said.

A separate possible option that may be considered would be to place a renewal on the ballot and a 0.25% additional levy that will enable citizens to continue to support the current 0.75 mill levy and decide on whether they want to support providing more money to those senior programs.

Adding an additional levy is estimated to collect $1.4 million a year.

The levy discussion is taking place now because the current senior levy is scheduled to end.

If the levy is approved to go on the November ballot, the county will have up to three times to place a proposal before voters. The current levy is time-limited and there will not be a law in place to collect money from property taxes.

Siskowic-Jurkovic suggested a levy vote can take place during the next general election, 2025’s primary election and 2025’s general election before the county will not be able to collect funds based on the current levy.

Malloy noted that when the county increased sewer rates by an average of $10 a month to do basic sewer maintenance and the Environmental Protection Agency required improvements commissioners received numerous phone calls, often from seniors, that they are on fixed incomes and could not afford the rate increases.

“They were not happy at all,” he said. “Their home evaluations have gone up and, on top of that, inflation has cut into their monthly budgets. I have heard from seniors that want more services, but they don’t want to pay for it.”

He noted there should be other avenues to pay for senior programs.

“I don’t think there is an amount of money that will be collected where there will not be a waiting list,” he said.

Cantalamessa said the county is in a perfect storm when it comes to the average citizen’s concern about their finances.

“People are living paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “Evaluations have gone up. Sewer bills have gone up because of things we have to do for public safety. People are strapped. Now is a difficult time to ask for more.”

“People feel they are taxed to death,” Malloy stated.

Have an interesting news story? Contact Raymond Smith by email at rsmith@tribtoday.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.

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