For every department in Genesee County, this year’s mandated budget cuts are hard to swallow. The county legislature is forcing 5-percent cuts across the board, in order to fit the county budget under New York State’s new 2-property tax cap.
Nowhere is the hurt more apparent than at the County Office for the Aging. Director Pamela Whitmore had already lost $102,000 in annual state grant money this year – a significant blow to her 2012 budget. With the mandated 5-percent cut on top, the Office for the Aging will now have to eliminate over $134,000 in spending.
Whitmore likened the 5-percent cut to that proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
“People are not going to get the level of service that they’ve gotten in the past,” Whitmore told the legislature’s Human Service Committee on Monday night.
She announced a planned $5,000 reduction to “Meals on Wheels,” which will now be on a three day-per-week delivery schedule if her budget goes according to plan. There are also pending staff cuts, social program reductions and fewer hours available for in-home services.
“Less staff means less time to do that face-to-face information and assistance – which is really the majority of what we do,” Whitmore said after the meeting.
Her message is further highlighted by this year’s census report, which shows a 16-percent increase in the over-60-year-old population in Genesee County. The census bureau also estimates that the population over 85-years-old, which is the most expensive to serve, has jumped by 33 percent in Genesee County the past decade (official numbers are not yet available for that category).
“It’d be one thing if the grant losses were just taking one program away…but most of our losses just took parts of each grant away,” Whitmore said. “So in essence, most of our services are still available, but there (are fewer) resources to provide them.”
In another Human Services report Monday, Chris Kuehl from the county nursing home told committee members that the home was able to reduce five positions to just three by consolidating some worker duties. That will save the nursing home $47,233 this year, and $104,439 in 2012, if the cuts are approved by the full legislature.
Also at the Human Services Committee, members approved the nomination of David Whitcroft as the interim public health director for Genesee County. Whitcroft's nomination comes on the heels of Randy Garney's abrupt retirement a week-and-a-half ago. Whitcroft will be paid $65,106 plus $600 in longevity pay. He officially takes over on Wednesday, if approved by the full legislature.