COMMENTARY: Senior Center Budget — The Rest Of The Story

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A few weeks ago we ran a story about how the Cannon County Senior Center was going to be eliminating some of its services because its budget had been cut.

In its July newsletter, the Senior Center is telling its members that it is short $13,500 for the current fiscal year, and asking whether the center should charge for membership and certain services.

On the front page of the newsletter is a message from Director Connie Rigsby:

From the Director:

News, News, News…… lots to go around this month the start of the 2010-2011 budget year. As the director the up coming year will be a tough one with many changes for our seniors some good, some not so good. The Senior Center is approximately $13,500.00 short of funds to fully fund all the programs we currently have. Some programs will stop, and some will only continue until the funds can be found. The shortfall has the full attention of director, staff and board members, we will make every attempt to serve the most needed programs first and make changes as the funds are available. The following programs will be affected:

Program being affected — Explanation — Amount the board was not able to fund in
2010-2011 budget

1. HELP Program — Five homebound seniors who receive once a week meal delivery will be cut. — $1500

2. HELP Program — HELP volunteers gas stipends that go out to see over 50 seniors that are home bound. — $2340

3. Newsletter — Newsletter will not be printed or mailed out to active members after September. We do plan to send a copy to the Courier, Wire, and CCSC websites and post at the Center and do WBRY monthly. — $4000

4. Art Class — The center will no longer pay for partial cost of painting classes. Everyone will have to pay the full amount of $20 to take the class. — $1200

5. Parking Lot — Parking lot maintenance – striping, and sealer. — $2500

6. SilverSneakers — Monies for members who do not have a SilverSneakers card is subsidized by the center. We will continue letting folks that do not have cards go until September. — $1200

7. BINGO — BINGO– Games that the center is unable to find partners for. — 7. $500

8. Parties — Parties– Supplies for soup day, birthday parties, holiday parties such as plates, cakes, ice cream, utensils drinks etc. — $260

Later in the newsletter under the heading "Drop in the Bucket" seniors are asked:

1. Should the Senior Center charge a membership fee? Yes or No

2. Should members pay a fee for program/classes? Yes Or No

3. Should the Senior Center charge for the newsletter? Yes or No

4. Should the Senior Center do more small fundraisers? Yes or No

5. How would you raise $13,500? ____________________________________________

6. If you had to choose a membership fee what would it be? $15 a person $20 a person $25 a person

7. Should seniors have to pay to make copies in the office? Yes or No

8. Would you (the senior) support an extra fund drive like the Have a Heart fund drive? Yes or No

9. Would seniors volunteer to stand on the street corners in town to raise money for the center? Yes or No

10. Should seniors pay for coffee? Yes or No

11. Do you (the senior) call your county commissioner/ government and express the importance of senior programs in Cannon County? Yes or No

Please answer the above questions.
Extra space is open for write in ideas.
$13,500.00 NEEDED!

County Commissioner Mark Barker, chairman of the Budget Committee, expressed bewilderment at a recent meeting over our report on the center's budget woes a few weeks ago. He wondered how the Senior Center could claim its budget had been cut when the county had increased its contribution over the previous year.

The Senior Center originally requested a contribution of $15,000. The Budget Committee recommended $6,500, an increase of $2,500 from last year.

The budget committee gave its approval to a Senior Center budget of $139,839 for FY 2010-2011, up from $138,540 last year. During the FY 2008-2009 the Senior Center's budget was $126,871, meaning it has increased $12,968 in two years.

However, it does not appear that the reason there is a shortfall is because of a decline in revenue. Or that expenses for services or activities have increased.

That's not to say that expenses have not increased. The budget shows that they are — in the area of employee salaries, including higher pay for the director (Rigsby), the office manager (Jacque Head) and the HELP Coordinator, Dawn Wynn.

Last year the Center hired a "Clerical Personnel" with the title "Thrift Coordinator" according to their budget. It is paying that person $6,000 per year. The shop earned $1,162.01 last year, a loss of $4,837.99.

The 2010-2011 fiscal year budget lists one "Part-Time Personnel" (Head) to be paid $19,111. That position earned $14,851 last year. That's an additional expenditure of $4,260.

Under "Other Salaries and Wages" one employee (Wynn) is given a raise from $14,344 to $15,706, an increase of $1,362.

The "Supervisor/Director" has received a pay increase from $26,224 to $27,012, an increase of $788. Last year that position received a $514 increase.

The Senior Center is asking whether it should charge for its newsletter, but at the same time budgeting an additional $1,829 for "Postage" and "Printing, Stationary and Forms."

Add all of those up and you get a figure of $12,802.99 — just $697.01 shy of what the center says it is short.

Although it is not unusual for budgets to change from year to year, as needs arise or situations change, it does appear there is a lot of room for flexibility in the Senior Center's budget. Travel for Director Rigsby was $14,989 in 2008-2009, $4,708 in 2009-10, and is estimated to be $5,000 in 2010-2011.

General "Travel" was listed as $815 in 2008-2009, increased 10 times to $8,794 in 2009-2010, but is not budgeted at all by the Center 2010-2011.

It is also not clear in the budget how the $6,500 contribution from the county will be spent, or the $5,000 from the Town of Woodbury — the same amount it has received from the town the past several years.

While I will let others decide whether a thrift shop or a person to run it is needed, or if raises for employees are warranted, I am concerned about statements I have heard from a few seniors who make use of the Center.

They feel they are being pressured into participating in fundraising, or threatened with a loss of services should they not be willing to pay for them.

Maybe it is necessary and appropriate for seniors to pay for certain activities and services offered by the Center. But if that is the decision they are being asked to make, they should be given all of the information, and not part of the story.

A review of the budget clearly shows that the Senior Center is not short on funds because the county cut its money, or because members do not pay dues, or fees for services. It's primarily because of the addition of, and raises for, employees.

That's something seniors might want to take into consideration when deciding whether or not they want to stand along Main Street asking passersby for money. Those people who will be asked to donate money might want to think about it as well.
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