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February 12, 2010

 

Senior center might get 4th day

Truxton legislator pushes to have day restored for town’s center

SeniorsBob Ellis/staff photographer
Carl Rose picks a flower for his wife from a basket held by Truxton Senior Center manager Jen McCracken prior to eating lunch Thursday.

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

The Truxton Senior Center may be restored to four days a week if legislators are convinced by the Feb. 25 Legislative session that attendance at the center merits the move and that savings could be found elsewhere in the 2010 budget.
Legislators at Thursday’s Human Services Committee meeting considered restoring a fourth day to the center at a cost of approximately $8,195, which would cover food and staffing for the extra day.
Human Services Chair Sandy Price (D-Harford and Virgil) introduced the motion and said it would be added to the Legislative agenda. But Price said she will pull it from the agenda Feb. 25 if legislators do not have budgetary and attendance figures they need to vote.
The center had been eliminated under the proposed 2010 budget to save approximately $55,000 but was restored to three days weekly under the adopted plan.
Other centers, also slated for reduced hours, were restored to four or five days. Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton), who does not sit on the committee but spearheaded the idea of restoring the hours, said the seniors should be treated fairly.
“They just rely on it so heavily, it is a big part of their life and a very important focus in their life,” Arnold said of the seniors who attend the Truxton Senior Center from Truxton, Cuyler and East Homer.
Arnold said she approached Legislature Chairman Jack Williams (D-8th Ward) as well as Area Agency on Aging Director Carol Deloff, Personnel Director Annette Barber and Price last week to discuss how to offset the cost of restoring the hours.
Arnold said when she reviewed the Area Agency on Aging budget with Deloff, she found savings of $8,195 in retirement figures that were overestimated in the 2010 budget.
Arnold explained that last year, former County Administrator Scott Schrader directed department heads to estimate retirement costs at 15 percent of salary costs when planning their budgets. But Arnold said this was a conservative estimate that should have been reduced to 12 percent once state budget figures were released.
Arnold said in several instances within the Area Agency on Aging budget, these figures were not reduced. So Arnold said she found the $8,195 to offset the cost of adding another day at the Truxton Senior Center.
But, Arnold said, in other department budgets, these figures were sometimes projected below the needed 12 percent, which means that the savings may not balance out.
Arnold, who is also Budget and Finance Committee chair, said she sent a letter to department heads Wednesday asking them to review their budget retirement line items and determine if the budgeted figures are accurate.
Arnold hopes to have that feedback by Thursday’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting so she can have exact figures to provide when the committee considers restoring the senior center hours.
Arnold also pointed to the fact that she voluntarily gave up her health insurance benefits in 2010 to save the county the budgeted expense of approximately $15,000, which she said because of her family’s use of the plan, actually ended up costing the county more annually.
Arnold said this move offsets the cost of the senior center’s manager becoming a full-time employee who is eligible for health benefits under the four-day plan.
The manager was eligible before the center was decreased to three days.
But this savings is not guaranteed by budgeting this way since health insurance costs can vary and employees can add family members to their plan throughout the year.
Price said, although she supports restoring the center to four days, she thinks it is a “pretty risky” move to offset the expense through health insurance.
“It’s something we’ve never done before. Those are only estimates of what will be spent,” Price said of the health insurance costs.
Price is also uncomfortable with taking money from the projected retirement lines, saying budgeted figures are all speculative and could change.
“We may have more money than budgeted or we may be short. It is all a guess ... so I would have liked the money coming from somewhere else other than there,” Price said.
Legislator John Troy (D-1st Ward) said in order to support the restoration he would have to see that attendance at the center justifies a fourth day.
The Truxton Senior Center manager, Jen McCracken, said she did not know February’s average attendance rate or how many individuals are served annually, but she thinks the center services about 20 adults daily.
This number could not be confirmed by press time.
“If they were up, in my mind it would justify a fourth day. If they are down or the same as they were, I can’t see adding another day,” Troy said.
At the time the center was slated for cuts, Schrader justified the move by saying the center serviced about 80 people as compared to other centers that service hundreds.
Arnold plans to provide both the attendance figures and the revised budget figures by the Feb. 25 Legislative session.
Price said if legislators are not satisfied with the information, she will pull the item from the agenda so they can have more time to consider the information.

 

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