Senior Citizen Center facing cutbacks

Hour cut from daily schedule, possibility of one-day-per week closing looms

Rockdale’s senior citizens center serves about 35 hot meals every weekday, provides gathering place for elderly community. 
Reporter/Mike Brown Rockdale’s senior citizens center serves about 35 hot meals every weekday, provides gathering place for elderly community. Reporter/Mike Brown A funding crunch is forcing Rockdale’s Senior Citizen Center to cut back on its hours and a possibility exists the center may have to close one day per week.

Carolyn Cooper, center director, told The Reporter that as of Wednesday, the facility is cutting back on its hours, from eight to seven each day.

Beginning Thursday (Nov. 1) we will still be open Monday through Friday, but are cutting back on hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

County Judge Dave Barkemeyer said the facility was “in the red” by $26,500 for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 and began the year with a $4,800, according to Hill Country Community Action Association (HCCAA), which oversees the operation.

He said federal funding is being further reduced this coming fiscal year, and the center’s budget has been reduced accordingly.

“Expenses, and therefore services, provided here will need to be reduced significantly in the coming year,” he said.

Cooper said the possibility exists in the future that the center might have to close one day per week, which would be Friday.

“Of course we’re hoping that wouldn’t happen,” she said. “Right now the hours cutback doesn’t affect the hot lunches we serve here. If we had to close on Friday that would affect one lunch a week.”

“This is a lot more than a place to come and eat lunch,” she said. “It’s a place where Rockdale’s senior citizens can gather. It gives them somewhere to go and something to do, a place where they can socialize and not be alone. It’s a very important part of their lives.”

Rockdale’s center is also the hub of South Milam Meals on Wheels activities.

‘COMPLEX’—Bea’s Kitchen in Cameron, another senior citizen facility, is facing similar cutbacks and budget problems.

But Barkemeyer said the Rockdale center is dif ferent because its funding is more complex.

“This operation is difficult to explain since funding is provided by multiple sources, multiple communities participate in the program, and with federal and state funding involved, the program is government regulated, he said.

The judge said Rockdale Senior Center revenue derives from multiple sources with the majority coming from federal funds administered by the Department of Aging and Disability Services, with a small amount coming through the State Department of Agriculture.

This past fiscal year 73%, or $165,500 of the $227,000 of our local funding came from these sources, 14% ($32,000) was provided by the county, 9% ($19,500) from Rockdale center sources, and 4% ($9,000) from the Rockdale United Way, he said,

“ We (Milam County Commissioners Court) have very little inf luence on the amount of funding that we receive from these federal sources for this operation,” Barkemeyer said.

CUTBACKS—The Rockdale Center budget has been reduced to about $ 209,000 for the 2012/2013 fiscal year which includes some $ 20,000 in reductions in federal funding, he said.

Inthepastfiscalyear, expenses were $253,500 and revenues $227,000.

“This information came after we had already completed county budget planning for 2013,” Barkemeyer said. “Commissioner’s Court did increase the amount of funding from the county slightly by $1,500 for 2013.

However, our position has been that county taxpayer’ participation in funding the senior centers should be kept at a minimum.

“We’ve operated on the principle that local participation should primarily be voluntary through donations. We certainly are open to feedback from you taxpayers out there on how you want us to proceed in future years,” he said.

Barkemeyer said cost breakdown of this year’s $253,500 expenses runs about 40% for pay and benefits, 48% for food and related supplies, 2% each for supplies, maintenance, and utilities, and 3% each for auto fuel and insurances.

“Due to governmental regulations, no charges can be made for any meals, all donations must be strictly voluntary,” he said.

“But certainly any donations are accepted,” Barkemeyer said.

“ We’re hoping things can get worked out,” Cooper said. “This is a real important place for Rockdale’s senior citizens and it’s been that way for many years.”

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