As Lewis County’s senior center programs continue to transition to the private sector, the Board of Lewis County Commissioners approved a motion on Wednesday that would allow more money on an as-needed basis to fill the gap of budget funds for nutrition programs.
According to information presented at the meeting, currently more than $17,200 is needed to balance the nutrition side of the budget for the senior center programs.
The move will still provide $100,000 to cover the lease and the utilities of the county-owned buildings, but the motion allows that contribution to also pay for the start up costs of the nutrition program, in addition to what is needed to balance the nutrition portion of the budget, if needed.
More money is required to balance the enrichment programs operated by the individual centers, but that cost will fall to the Lewis County Seniors board and the individual centers as the county cuts its funding in pursuit of a balanced budget.
The Lewis-Mason-Thurston Area Agency on Aging has also pledged $50,000 to help the programs.
The amount needed to balance the nutrition budget was derived by Ron Averill, from the Seniors board, and Danette York, the director of Public Health and Social Services.
The budget shown to commissioners includes changes to some of the site leaders and senior center staff’s pay and also does not include health care for the employees, although those changes have not yet been approved by the Seniors board
“In order to move forward with a limited amount of time, they worked to come down on the budget significantly,” Becky Butler, budget manager for the county, said. “There’s a risk of losing current staff, but it’s showing that we want the program to continue. The whole point is a nonprofit can do it at a lesser cost than the county.”
Commissioners announced last year they would end about $375,000 in annual funding for the program as they work to decrease the county’s use of reserves. They agreed to extend the funding through 2017 after residents and patrons of the centers voiced their displeasure with the decision and its timing, which came just after the 2016 general election.
As the proposals move forward, Averill said the individual centers will be asked to disclose how much money they each have in accounts set up to support their specific enrichment programs. The request has been met with some backlash from the centers, Averill said.
“I have made it clear to the board that yes, we will need to have those reports,” he said, adding the money needs to be disclosed for tax purposes.
Averill also said the recommended meal donation will likely be increased to $5 to help raise more funds.
The Seniors board will meet tonight and the budget will be discussed in more detail, Averill said.
“I’m hoping to make a decision tomorrow night on where we are going with salaries and benefits,” he said on Wednesday.
The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Twin Cities Senior Center, 2545 N. National Ave., Chehalis.