Veteranís Assistance Commission tax levy garners personal support from Lincoln Aldermen

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[March 09, 2016]  LINCOLN - On Monday evening, Joe Schaler appeared before the Lincoln City Council, seeking support for a tax levy to fund a Veteranís Assistance Commission in Logan County.

In his presentation, Schaler explained that the provision for a VAC has been in existence since the Civil War Era, but such a commission has never been established in Logan County. He said that several surrounding counties have had similar commissions for many years, and that it is now time for Logan County to offer this valuable veteran service as well.

Schaler was there to explain that a tax levy to fund the commission will not raise the net taxes paid by Logan County residents. He said that because the county works with a tax cap, and is at the top of that cap, the total property tax bill residents receive will not increase.

What will happen instead is the levy will help determine an amount of money that must be earmarked for the VAC, and will ultimately reduce the dollar figure of taxes utilized by the county.

Schaler said that since beginning the work of getting the tax levy referendum on the ballot and seeking local support for its passage, he has heard from several veterans who are anxious for the opportunity to have the help provided locally.

He said at the moment there is a VAC superintendent that comes to Lincoln from Decatur to meet with veterans at the Oasis. He noted that the schedule is supposed to be once per week, but there are circumstances that sometimes prevent the superintendent from coming, such as bad weather.

With a local commission, he said a VAC office would be established in the Logan County Courthouse and one superintendent would be hired to man that office.

Schaler said the commission will offer a variety of services, the most important of which will be to assist veterans in understanding and filing benefit claims. Schaler explained that obtaining veteran benefits can be a complicated process that many veterans need help with. He told the council that ďwe canít change the system, but we can help people deal with it.Ē

Schaler went on to say that assisting veterans in filing for and ultimately receiving their VA benefits will ultimately add more dollars to the local economy.

When Schaler was finished, Todd Mourning asked what will happen if the referendum fails to pass. Schaler said the VAC would still be established. The difference would be that without the levy taking the funds off of the top of the property taxes, the county board would then have to determine what line item of their budget to take the money from.

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At the end of Schalerís talk, Mayor Marty Neitzel explained that it was too late for the council to do anything collectively because there was no item on the current agenda. The election is to be held on Tuesday March 15th, and there will be no voting opportunity for the council prior to that date. She went on to say that for the moment, the only thing aldermen could do was give their nod of agreement, without a formal vote or resolution.

Tracy Welch was the first to speak up, saying that he does support the levy. He noted that he is a veteran, and while he is not currently utilizing any of the services offered through the VA benefits, he does know that can change some day. He thanked Schaler for following through with the VAC and said he personally supports it.

Jonie Tibbs also spoke up saying that she has a brother-in-law who is a World War II veteran. She said that for his sake and the sake of other veterans, she too would personally support the levy.

Kathy Horn also spoke saying she has two sons who are in the military. She recognizes the value of such a commission and will also personally support the levy.

Schaler expressed appreciation for the individual support of the various aldermen. He said that it is important to understand that in todayís military, it is different than it was years ago when a soldier would do one tour of duty and be honorably discharged. He said today, soldiers are re-enlisting and doing multiple tours of duty. He said that will someday take its toll on those people, and veteran services will be needed.

He also noted that with the implementation of some chemical warfare, there are issues coming to the forefront for soldiers, years after they have left the service. In summary, the VAC is going to be needed even more in the future, and it will good to know that local people have local representation.

[Nila Smith]

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