The Next Move for a Dexter Area Senior Center

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Image by Doug Marrin

The Dexter Senior Center is facing big funding and facility challenges these days. The City of Dexter and surrounding townships have taken up the cause.

At the Oct 24 city council meeting, Mayor Keough updated the council on the progress of the latest strategy for continuing and improving senior services—creating a regional senior center authority.

Mayor Keough reported meeting with Dexter and Webster township supervisors and the Dexter Senior Center Board Chair to develop draft articles of incorporation to create a Senior Center Regional Authority.

Once established, the Regional Authority could propose a millage to voters for funding.

“This is really important,” Mayor Keough told the council. “We need to give the Dexter Seniors the ability to ask for funding for their programs. It seems like the time is right. Our job as a board is not to approve their funding but to set up an authority that gives them the ability to establish a board and take it to the next level.”

The move falls under the Recreational Authorities Act 321 of 2000. Of the four municipalities directly involved with the Dexter Senior Center, the City of Dexter, Webster, Dexter, and Scio townships, Scio has chosen for now to continue making an annual contribution to the senior center. The other three have expressed interest in pursuing the incorporation. At least two of these municipalities would have to approve the articles of incorporation for the Authority to be formed.

Reading through the draft, Councilmember Arab commented, “For me, this is very specific to the needs of seniors in the communities. I know there has been a lot of conversation about that. I really appreciate the effort put into this and the work that has been done to make it very specific about them and their needs.”

“I would really try to get Scio in the front door,” said Councilmember Michels. “I wouldn’t want to be taxing ourselves, and people from other communities come in and get the same service at a reduced cost. That kind of rubs me the wrong way. I’d like to figure out how Scio Township is contributing at the same rate as the other communities.”

The move is a quick turnabout for Dexter area senior funding after Dexter Area School District voters failed to pass a comprehensive recreational millage in August with provisions for the seniors. If passed, 25% of the one mil, 20-year tax would have gone to funding Dexter Senior Center programming, services, and, most notably, a new senior center. The millage was expected to generate approximately $360,000 yearly for the seniors. But community concerns about the proposal’s overall lack of specificity regarding how the money would be spent, inflation, and other economic woes prompted a majority of voters to reject it.

Councilmember Fisher noted the Dexter Senior Center has an ongoing struggle with funding. She favors having the issue put into the hands of voters.

“They’ve been left to get a bit here and there, and it’s not working,” said Fisher. “Now, either this will be successful, and the people will support this as the right thing to do, or they won’t, and there won’t be a senior center. The people will just be absorbed by other centers around them.”

The Dexter Senior Center’s funding relies on membership dues, donations, and grants. But these don’t cover the entirety of its $157K budget (FY 2022). The center requests the shortfall from the municipalities whose members use the center’s services—the City of Dexter and the surrounding townships of Scio, Dexter, Webster, and Lima. Each share is apportioned according to the percentage of membership from that municipality. The center’s membership was 243 as of Dec 31 last year.

The Senior Center will soon need to find a new home. Its current lease runs out in about a year and won’t be renewed. Last year the center’s board conducted a series of focus groups to gain public input regarding a new location and programming. The two big takeaways were that folks want the DSC to stay within the city and the program selection to increase even more.

The next steps are for the articles to be finalized and approved by each municipality. The draft articles of incorporation can be found in the Dexter City Council packet for Oct 24, posted on the city’s website.

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