Kearns and Sons RS Aesthetics

Mill levy for Veterans Service Center to go on the ballot

By Michael Howell

At a meeting on January 25, the Ravalli County Commissioners approved placing a 2-mill levy for the Valley Veterans Service Center (VVSC) on the June ballot.

Back in 2010, 67% of Ravalli County voters approved a 1 mill levy for the VVSC. That levy amounted to a tax of $2.70 on a home with a taxable value of $100,000. If the additional 2 mill levy is approved, it will increase that tax by $5.40 per home with a taxable value of $100,000, for a total of $8.10 going to the Valley Veterans Service Center.

Commission Chair Greg Chilcott said that he was in favor of the mill levy but that any resolution to go on the ballot should include what the money is going to support. He said the center was helping close to 1,200 resident veterans by providing housing assistance, counseling, and help gaining access to federal benefits.

Tim Peterson, president of the board for VVSC, noted that the number of veterans estimated to reside in Ravalli County is 4,532. He said 1.75 service officers is not enough to serve such a large community. He said the number of case files has grown from 168 to 1,193. He said three Veterans Service Officers were needed to adequately serve our population.

According to Peterson, up to 200 combat veterans have received counseling and, since 2006 five suicides have been prevented. What is the value of that, he asked.

He said that the VVSC also operates on donations and grants that amount to about $8,000 to $10,000 annually.

Former County Attorney George Corn echoed Commissioner Chilcott’s remarks and strongly recommended including the services offered in the levy resolution.

“You need professionals there all the time,” said Corn. “Voters will support it because it is important to our community.”

Dixie Stark, Director of the Literacy Bitterroot program, said that her organization was itself in financial crisis and was contemplating requesting a mill levy. But when they discovered that the VVSC was looking to place a levy on the ballot they decided to step back. She said they didn’t want to be competing with veterans for taxpayers’ funds.

“We are in a crisis,” said Stark, “but we want to see the veterans taken care of first.”

Placing the 2-mill levy on the ballot was approved unanimously on the condition that the language be approved by legal counsel, including the language agreed to in the discussion concerning information to be included on the ballot.

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