Ballot language approved by county commissioners
LAPEER COUNTY — Staff at the Lapeer County Veterans Affairs Office are hoping county residents will support a slight tax increase on the Nov. 3, 2020 general election ballot.
Recently, the Lapeer County Board of Commissioners approved the ballot language, seeking an additional 0.085 mill levy to run through 2023.
LCVA Director Pete Kirley said the proposed increase would be in addition to the current 0.10 mill levy previously approved by voters.
If approved, Kirley said the increase would raise an additional $261,217 in 2021. Combined with the existing millage, the total amount raised during the year 2021, would be $565,208.
Kirley said the additional funding is needed to meet the existing and future needs of Lapeer County’s 5,700 veterans, 64 percent of whom are Vietnam-era and older.
Kirley explained that the needs of veterans vary somewhat, based on their ages and when they served.
He said health issues remain at the forefront of older veterans’ concerns; while younger (post-Persian Gulf) veterans frequently need some help during their transition from military to civilian life.
“A lot of the younger veterans have young families,” Kirley said. “They need help finding jobs, housing, legal and financial assistance and medical insurance.”
Kirley, who assumed his duties as VA Director last September, said the coronavirus has interfered with many of his first-year goals.
Still, Kirley said 80 more Lapeer County veterans have signed up at the Lapeer office since January 1.
“I’m surprised that there are still some veterans in Lapeer County that don’t know this office is here,” Kirley said. “Our veterans need to know that the benefits and services they have earned and deserve are available nearby.”
While the pandemic has forced cancellation of some of the LCVA’s in-person outreach programs, including annual trips to the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, he intends to restore such programs at the appropriate time.
For now, Kirley intends to spend as much time as possible in promoting the November ballot proposal.
“This job is all about supporting our veterans,” he said. “I want to deliver that message to people by getting out and into our local communities.”
In the coming weeks leading up to Nov. 3, Kirley said he plans to attend numerous governmental meetings countywide to share his message with citizens.
Kirley said a portion of the money raised from a .085-mill increase would go toward his loyal and long-serving office staff in downtown Lapeer.
That includes full-time staff members Cheryl Burrough and Denise Owens, along with administrative assistant, Jolene Kreiner.
“There’s a lot to this job and the responsibility of making sure that all Lapeer County veterans are well-served,” said Kirley. “With the influx of more veterans in our system, that responsibility becomes greater.”
Kirley pointed out that there has been no increase (only renewals) in funding for the county’s VA office in years — resulting in a budget shortfall.
“I want to get out and talk to as many people as I can between now and the election,” said Kirley. “If anyone has questions about the millage proposal, I want to make myself available.”
Kirley can be contacted directly at 810-245-6829, 810-845-3623 or by calling the Lapeer County VA Office at 810-667-0256. Emails may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or to email@example.com
Kirley served 33 years in the U.S. Army and retired as a Sergeant Major.
He served in the Persian Gulf in 1990-91, in Iraq in 2008, and in Afghanistan in 2012.
As Lapeer County’s VA Director, Kirley said he also wants to assure that the county’s female veteran population is equally well-served.
Kirley and his wife, Kelly, also a U.S. Army veteran, were married more than 30 years ago while both were stationed in Germany.
The couple has a son, Sean Kirley, 28, who is currently serving with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.