Mount ClemensJuly 24, 2012
County Veterans Services Dept. seeks millage renewal Aug. 7
By Brad D. Bates
C & G Staff Writer
MOUNT CLEMENS — A millage issue on the Aug. 7 primary ballot in Macomb County is asking voters to renew 0.04 mill to fund the Macomb County Veterans Service Department.
The department was founded in 1953 along with the Veterans Affairs Commission, and in its current format, it helps aid veterans with benefit requests and financial hardships.
“We’re an advocate for veterans in the county with their dealing with the VA and the bureaucracy of the government,” Director of Veterans Services Kermit Harris said. “Whatever they need, we try to provide that service.”
The 0.04-mill renewal, if passed, would cost a taxpayer owning a $100,000 home, which has a taxable value of $50,000, $2 per year.
The renewal is for six years, running from 2013 to 2018, and would raise $984,560 in 2013.
Macomb County voters originally approved the millage in 2008 with a 68-percent approval vote, and according to the Veterans Service Department it boosted its budget from $600,000 to $1.3 million.
The increase allowed the department to hire four new counselors and cut the waiting time for applicants seeking service from six to eight weeks to one to two.
The department’s increased staff steadily raised the amount veterans using their services received in benefits from $3,152,245 in 2007 to $7,536,557 in 2011.
“If you have an accredited counselor helping you, you have a 40 percent better chance of getting your claim approved,” Harris said of the benefits veterans receive from applying for services through his department compared to going it alone.
“You can go on your own, but it’s a very much like going to court as your own attorney,” Veterans Affairs Commission Chairman Patrick Daniels added.
“Unfortunately, people have the idea that we have the VA, so (veterans) are taken care of. But there is a lot of red tape that needs to be dealt with.”
Along with funding the department’s services and employees, money from the millage goes to the Veterans Relief Fund, which is used to issue grants to help veterans.
“We’ve had a widow come in, and she was paying her bills, but had very little left at the end of the month,” Daniels said of where Relief Fund money goes. “She had a water heater blow up, so we gave her money for a new water heater.”
Prior to the millage approval in 2008, Relief Fund grants totaled $1,855 in 2007. In 2011, $119,964 was awarded to veterans in need.
“For a penny a day, to help any veteran, is a small price to pay,” Daniels said of the millage renewal. “In our humble opinion, veterans are worth a penny a day.
“We understand the taxpayers of Macomb County are taxed to death, but this is a renewal,” Daniels added.
“My concern is that people are going to go out and vote no on all the millage proposals because they’ve had it. But this is a renewal, and it’s just a penny a day.”
Calls to the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance for comment were not returned at press time.
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