Senior Center should survive budget cuts |

Senior Center should survive budget cuts

Despite some financial hurdles, the future appears bright for the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center.

When city leaders first announced a $300,000 budget blow to the Parks and Recreation Department, the senior community feared it would lose many of the services the center now provides.

But innovation and planning, as well as a possible deal with El Dorado County, should allow the center to pull through, department officials say.

“It looked ugly,” said Gary Moore, recreation supervisor. “But the entire department rose to another level of professionalism. In the transition, I know parks and recreation will survive, and it looks good in the future.”

The senior center was among the hardest hit within the parks and recreation department, facing a $22,000 budget cut in the next fiscal year, Moore said.

The maintenance and operating budget is expected to be reduced by about $10,000, and administration, supervision and overhead costs by the same amount.

Moore said the center will try to recover most of that loss through increased revenue – in the form of modest fee hikes, more rental agreements for the facility during non-senior-use hours and contributions from nonprofit senior organizations.

The remaining will come from cutting part-time staff and placing additional responsibility on full-time positions, which mirrors what is happening throughout the department.

“Our goal is to keep a full-service senior center with as few service-level impacts as possible,” Moore said. “Participants won’t feel the impact, but employees, they will feel the impact.”

Roughly 30 percent of his time – which was once fully dedicated to the center – will be used to absorb the loss of personnel throughout the department.

However, Moore’s office will remain at the center and 30 percent of his salary will no longer come out of the senior center’s budget, he said.

Other revenue sources to offset the cost of running the center could come from El Dorado County, although nothing is finalized.

Don Radford, parks and recreation director, said the city was originally hoping the county could help subsidize the center’s utility costs – the bulk of which come from running refrigerators for the county’s Senior Nutrition Program.

While El Dorado County has said no to that option, officials from both governments are in the process of working out an agreement so the county can offer something – monetary or otherwise.

“We are in the talking stages to figure out how the county can make a contribution to senior programs,” Moore said. “They feel the senior center at Lake Tahoe is a viable facility and are willing to come to the table and talk about it.”

Meanwhile, senior citizens who are active at the center have a better understanding of the situation and feel comfortable with how the department is handling the cuts, Radford said.

Through an educational program, department staff provided seniors with past and present budgets and explained how those voids will be filled.

“They understand it, and I think they felt good about it,” Radford said.

Part of the budget-reduction plan makes the senior center a special revenue fund within the department’s budget, so that revenues generated at the center go directly to offset the cost of doing business there, rather than being absorbed by the city’s general fund.

“That will be to our advantage because it will give us more flexibility for how we operate,” Moore said. “Our own destiny is a tiny bit more in our hands.”

The senior center provides a wide range of services and programs for the older citizens in the South Lake Tahoe Community, from social services such as peer counseling and support groups to a variety of recreation activities.

Since the center was founded in 1988, Moore said the programs have seen participation grow 300 to 400 percent, fully justifying the need for a senior facility in the city.

And hard financial times won’t take that away, according to Moore.

“Change is hard, but change can be good,” he said.

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