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Senior Center faces funding cuts, but officials stand tall

Larry Phillips, chair of the 2009 Budget Review and Adoption Committee, talks to the crowd gathered at the start of the public hearing at Finn Hill Junior High Oct. 21. Northshore Senior Center staff members and 15 seniors who use the center attended the meeting. - Katherine Ganter / Reporter
Larry Phillips, chair of the 2009 Budget Review and Adoption Committee, talks to the crowd gathered at the start of the public hearing at Finn Hill Junior High Oct. 21. Northshore Senior Center staff members and 15 seniors who use the center attended the meeting.
— image credit: Katherine Ganter / Reporter

Faced with the loss of approximately $150,000 in county funding, Lee Harper, director of the Northshore Senior Center, seems determined to remain optimistic.

“My goal is to focus on generating more revenue rather than on what are we going to cut,” Harper said.

Because of King County’s well-advertised financial problems, the Northshore center is slated to lose $46,000 in base funding for 2009, along with an expected cut of $100,000 in special-projects dollars.

According to Harper, King County officials initially wanted to slice base dollars down to zero. But the center was granted what’s being called lifeboat funding for the first six months of next year. Northshore will receive roughly half of the $92,986 sent its way in 2008. Once the lifeboat dollars dry up, the basic operating money goes away permanently, Harper said. Comparing 2010 with 2008, the center then would be shy almost $200,000 in county funding.

“The county is in a very bad financial situation,” said Linda Peterson, director of King County’s Community Services Division.

Overall, for 2009, Peterson said she was forced to slice $3 million from her 2008 departmental budget of $7.5 million.

“We are making cuts to every single program area,” she added. “It’s a very unhappy situation.”

Adult day health, or adult day care, is one area specifically targeted, Peterson said, because state funding is available for such programs. For 2008, county base funding for Northshore included $62,866 for adult day-center programs. Harper said that while Peterson is correct in saying the state helps fund adult day services, she added those dollars don’t cover the center’s entire program.

“There is a gap there,” Harper said.

In the current year, Northshore is serving approximately 235 persons at adult day centers it operates in Bothell and Kirkland. And despite the budget problems, Harper insists Northshore won’t be turning people away.

In the short term, Northshore’s board of directors has taken, or plans to take, several steps to raise revenue. For example, Harper said increases in membership fees should bring in about $15,000 next year.

Northshore officials also plan to hold a couple of fund-raising events and expand the offerings at its coffee bar, moves that might bring in about $30,000. But Harper said those are stop-gap measures at best.

Looking at the long haul, according to Harper, Northshore’s board is considering putting its first operating levy before voters. The senior center is part of the Northshore Parks and Recreation Service Area, which includes both Bothell and Kenmore. Past ballot measures funded construction of the Northshore Senior Center, as well as the Northshore Public Health Center.

According to information provided by Harper, the levy under consideration would raise between $600,000 and $650,000 a year. She said it would add about 4 cents per $1,000 in property valuation to tax bills. For a $300,000 home, the levy would cost about $12 annually.

Harper said there has been no final decisions about a levy. Directors seemed ready to pull the trigger, but Harper said the financial realities in the entire country have been changing rapidly over the last month or so. The earliest practical point for Northshore to approach voters is the August 2009 primary.

Despite some obvious determination to remain positive, Harper’s closing comments reflected some possibly harsh realities.

“If we can’t figure this out, we will be cutting services,” she said. “I don’t want to get people upset about it, but if at the end of the day we can’t pay our bills ...”

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