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Commission on Aging Requests $1,000 Line Item In Town’s Budget For Their Commission; Request Denied By Selectmen: Video Of Discussion

By: Maria Moore

The Commission on Aging (COA) went to the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on February 28 to request that a $1,000 line item for the Commission be added to the town’s 2012-2013 budget.

Ellen Durstin, member of the COA, prefaced their request by saying that Selectwoman Alesia Kennerson had attended the Commission’s February 1 meeting and had strongly recommended they come to the selectmen with a proposal. Representing the Commission on Aging at the meeting was also COA Chairwoman Penny Miller. Both Commission members said they wanted to assemble a focus group to identify the needs of the senior population in the community and to follow up on the findings of that focus group with a mailing to the seniors in New Hartford. The Commission currently has no budget with which to conduct such activities. The Commission members said they wanted to reach out to local health care providers, police and fire departments and churches to determine what services are being provided, what services are being requested by the senior population that are not being provided for by those organizations; the Commission would then want to connect local services to State level organisations that could help bridge the gap in services. “It’s kind of hard to do some of these things without any resources whatsoever,” Ellen said and added: “… in order to give the seniors what the Commission is charged to do, we’re putting in a request for $1,000 in the budget.”

Alesia Kennerson said it was hard to put a $1,000 line item in the budget without some kind of a plan, without knowing what the Commission thinks they might spend this year and in future years. “Will the funding be higher in your start-up year and lesser in following years? We would need to know some of those things.” “How do we get you that information? I’m not sure we have it right now.” Ellen said.

The Selectmen responded by pointing out the difficulties of the current economic situation. The suggestion was made that the Commission might be able to access some of the funds allocated to the Senior Director, “perhaps $500.”

First Selectman Dan Jerram said that the focus group would be a volunteer group and that, if the focus group wanted to do a mailing, that would cost money and that the town had cut the communication line item from the budget, although it was hoping to reinstate it in the upcoming 2012-13 budget. The First Selectman said that email was being used more and more to which Ellen responded that many seniors don’t use email.

“Does the Commission on Aging now have any budget?” Selectman Jack Casey asked. “No, nothing.” Both Ellen and Penny responded. In the past, they said, their Commission thought they had a $1,000 line item but then they discovered that it was money that was allocated for the Senior Center Director’s use. “For the Municipal Agent for the Elderly,” they were corrected. “In the past we’ve used that money for mailings – inappropriately.” Ellen said.

“If there was money allocated in the budget, who would administrate it?” Jack Casey wanted to know. “Would it be the town and you would put in for expenditures?” “Yes, if that’s the easiest way to do it.” The COA members said.

“Do you have any idea how many people qualify as seniors n town, approximately?” Jack asked. Neither the selectmen or the COA members had a figure available but Penny said: “There are more seniors now than in the previous census,” Penny said.  Ellen later handed Jack a sheet of paper with graphs showing the senior population in New Hartford.

“We need to service our seniors in town,” Penny emphasized, “and except for the few who use the Senior Center upstairs you’re not reaching the seniors.”

The COA members said they would be happy to share the $1,000 now allocated to the Senior Center Director.  There followed some discussion about sharing those funds.

“The difficulty of our position, I’m just going to put it right out on the table,” First Selectman Dan Jerram said, “Is while it would seem very easy for us to discuss something as simplistic as $500 right now, in about an hour we’re going to discuss something like $1.2 million [the town budget as a whole], and we’re going to be pulling the hair (out of our heads).” He went on to say that when you look at the budget, with 73% going to education, and looking at the way the ratio of spending increases: “We will be asked again to do more with less to fund our kids, a worthwhile enterprise, at the expense of many other worthy enterprises… To make a promise now that will be very difficult to keep…” Jack interrupted, saying that he felt it was worth doing what Alesia was suggesting, to try to take some of the $1,000 from the Senior Director and make it available to the Commission on Aging. Dan Jerram added that the Board of Selectmen is also struggling with a communications line item.

“I just know now that we are in a very difficult position this year.” Dan Jerram told the COA members. “People reach into their pockets and there’s only so much money to go around. “Just keep in mind, Mr. Chairman,” Penny Miller responded, “You also will be a senior and your parents are part of our senior group. There’s many more of us than you know.” “I do understand,” Dan Jerram said, explaining to the COA members that even if they were to put in a $500 line item for them, surviving the final review would be a lot harder.

The COA members said they understood the difficulty all communities are facing and that if there was an opportunity to share the $1,000 line item of the Senior Director, they would be happy with that. “The difficulty with that,” the First Selectman said, “is that even if you want to do one mailing to reach everybody, last time it cost us $2,900 or a postcard – the cheapest – is $900.” The COA members said that once they were ready to do a mailing, they would explore the cheapest way to get the mailing out there.

Alesia Kennerson suggested that if they (the selectmen) keep some of the communications money – a $5,000 Communications line item is being included in the selectmen’s draft budget – then when they’re ready to do a mailing, they could check back with the COA to include something in the mailing from them. First Selectman Dan Jerram hesitated to commit to that. “We should consider it,” Alesia said, which the First Selectman agreed to do.

The selectmen denied the Commission on Aging’s request to add a $1,000 line item for their Commission in the budget for their use. The selectmen decided that a $500 line item for the COA was also beyond what they could afford.

Following is the video of the selectmen’s discussion on the Commission on Aging’s request for a $1,000 line item in the town’s budget for their commission. Note that the black bars represent the results of the 2000 Census and the colored bars represent the 2010 data.

Click on the image above to watch the selectmen's discussion of the Commission on Aging request on the NewHartfordPlus YouTube Channel

The Senior Population In New Hartford

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Between 2000 and 2010 the senior population in New Hartford has increased substantially, as shown by the following figures taken from the census data from 2010 and 2000. For example:

  • The number of 55 to 69 year-olds:  In 2010 it was 1,480 while in 2000 the number was 793;

During the same time period, the population of school-aged children has been decreasing, as shown by the census data from 2010 and 2000:

  • The number of 0-14 year-olds: In 2010 the number was 1,318 while in 2000 they numbered 1,413.

Following is a chart showing the changes in the population by age of New Hartford residents.

To read more about the change in the population in New Hartford, see our December 26 article Looking At New Hartford Through The Lens Of The Census.

Proposed Budgets For Commissions And Other Agencies

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The total proposed budget for the town’s Commissions and Other Agencies for the upcoming fiscal year is $109,394, a 1.3% increase over last year’s budget.

Download a copy of the proposed budget for the other commissions and agencies: 2012-2013 Budget Summary, Commissions & Other Agencies (30).

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