Voters approve millage for Veterans' Affairs Program
LAKE COUNTY — Voters remembered Lake County's 1,174 veterans at the polls on Tuesday when they voted in favor of the millage for the veterans' affairs program, which passed by 3,015-1572.
The millage will levy one-tenth of one-mill ($0.10 per $1,000) of state-equalized valuation for a period of six years, raising an estimated $58,028 the first calendar year to fund the creation, maintenance and operations of a Lake County Department of Veterans Affairs and to support eligible indigent veteran claims.
Now that the proposal has passed, the current three-member Soldiers and Sailors Relief Commissioner, who assist veterans in securing burial benefits, will be replaced by a Veterans’ Affairs Committee, a three-to-five member panel appointed by the Lake County Commissioners.
Members of the committee must be a Lake County resident and a veteran having honorably served in active duty in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“Some of the things the veterans’ office will deal with are veterans’ burial needs,” said Lake County Administrator Tobi Lake. “If veterans are indigent and need food, assistance will come through the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The director will be a liaison of the three levels of government, at the federal, state and local level to provide benefits such as personal compensation, educational and vocational employment and medical care."
Currently and in years previous, veterans had to travel to neighboring counties to receive services from veterans' affairs offices. Because the veterans’ affairs program millage proposal passed, services to Lake County's nearly 1,200 veterans will greatly expand, Lake added.
Lake said there has been a push for a veterans’ affairs office, but the county was waiting to see if a grant program would pass, allowing a minimum of $25,000 in funding for eligible counties to create the office.
Lake said the county will apply for the grant to create the office and hire a certified employee to man it at least 20 hours a week. The millage will fund any shortages the grant doesn't cover and provide funds to help indigent veterans who served during wartime. The office would be housed in a space at the Michigan Works! building in Baldwin. The millage will be levied effective Dec. 1, 2019, for tax bills available for 2020.
Now the proposal passed, the county will come up with a job description and criteria for a director, pay structure and figure out a schedule for 20 hours of office availability.