Missoula Aging Services kicked off a public campaign to convince Missoula County voters to support raising property taxes in order to pay for their programs.
Missoula Aging Services officials said during a Tuesday news conference that since 2007, the county gave them $350,000 each year.
In the 15 years since that number has not adjusted for inflation, or the record-breaking growth of retiring baby boomers.
Missoula Aging Services noted Montana has the sixth-highest growth rate for an aging population, and that the pandemic accelerated the demand for their services.
Meals on Wheels — a food delivery service for seniors — is one of the programs managed by Missoula Aging Services.
CEO Lisa Sheppard said since 2019, the program has grown more than 60% and while COVID-19 relief spending helped fill the budget gaps, she says the money will not last.
“It’s making for this really difficult situation,” Sheppard said. “All of this increase that we’ve seen - that’s not going away, just the funding. This county funding is a really critical piece for us going forward.”
The proposed tax is a 4-mill levy, meaning a $4r tax for every $100,000 of a property’s value. For the average property in Missoula, that roughly means a charge of $1.50 each month.
Aging activists are being encouraged to sign up to spread the word about the vote to try and gather support before the request goes on the ballot during the June 7 primary.
Sheppard said the tax increase is a net benefit for taxpayers because the services Missoula Aging Services provides are more cost-effective than seniors entering retirement facilities.
She also noted that the tax is a way to pay it forward.
“We are all aging,” Sheppard said. “We want to create and have and support the kind of community that is a good place to age. And so that’s even true for people my age, true for people your age, true for everybody.”