When it comes to your local taxes, what do you pay them for? Do you hope that money will just sit in the bank and draw a little bit of interest, or would you prefer it actually does something good like fill a pothole or pay a teacher’s salary? Most would prefer the latter, unless you serve on the Crawford County Senior Citizens Tax Board.
During a recent Crawford County Commission meeting, it was revealed that our Senior Citizens Tax Board is sitting on more than $50,000 of our money. While that may not sound like a lot for a government entity, keep in mind the board has no employees, runs no programs and has an annual budget of just $120,000. Its sole job is to disburse money to entities that serve our senior citizens. So, why is it sitting on $50,000?
During previous discussions at their meetings, members of the Senior Citizens Tax Board have stated that the board was holding back approximately $10,000 a year in case of an “emergency.” Each year that “emergency” money was never rolled into the next year’s budget, which meant that it continued to grow to the point that the board had a surplus of $52,163.08 at the end of 2012.
The Senior Citizens Tax Board routinely meets only about twice a year. Their sole purpose is to distribute tax money (which we all pay) to organizations that serve senior citizens in Crawford County. Through the years, nearly all of the money the board oversees has been distributed the three county senior meals programs—Golden Echoes in Steelville, the Cuba Senior Center and the Bourbon Senior Center—and SMTS (Southeast Missouri Transportation Service), which provides transportation for doctor visits, shopping, etc. for county seniors.
So the question is: Why hasn’t all of the board’s money been distributed to those entities every year? That very question was addressed during a recent county commission meeting.
“I know the money ($50,000) could be used,” Don Gummersheimer told the commissioners. “They need to distribute what they have. This is tax money for people who are 60 and over.”
Indeed, they need to distribute what they have—nearly every last dime of it, every year.
While saving money for an “emergency” is a reasonable goal to most government agencies, it makes absolutely no sense for the Senior Citizen Tax Board to do so. The board is never going to have an emergency. It can’t have one. It doesn’t even run any of the programs it supports.
Yes, the senior centers could have an emergency. They could have a freezer quit or need a new stove, but it’s not the Senior Citizen Tax Board’s responsibility to plan for that. Our senior centers must plan for their own emergencies. The tax board can’t worry about such things. Its only responsibility is to hand out the money—that’s it! Running the senior centers is up to the boards that oversee them and they have to manage their own funds and plan for any emergencies.
We must all hope that this hoarding of taxpayers’ money comes to an end when the Senior Citizens Tax Board meets again in February. Two new members on the board—Gummersheimer and former county treasurer Jim Huddleston, who were both appointed to the board by the county commission on December 27—have said they want to see the money handed out as it should be.
Gummersheimer told the commission before he was appointed that “by the end of the year, (the Senior Citizens Tax Board) shouldn’t have more than $1,000 to $2,000 (in the bank).”