State cuts start to hit home
May 11, 2009 · Updated 6:58 PM
State legislators have essentially adopted Washington’s budget for the next two years. The final numbers did not hold good news for several local institutions.
Northshore Senior Center
According to Director Lee Harper, the center will take a huge hit at the beginning of July or possibly even in early June, losing 72 percent of its funding for adult day health programs.
“It’s going to be pretty devastating to our families,” Harper said. “That’s about 100 people we won’t be able to serve anymore.”
The state also has sliced all funding for transportation related to adult day health.
In dollar figures, the center is bracing to withstand a cut of $450,000. The funding reduction will double next year, Harper added. In 2010, the center also will see the end of $100,000 in King County dollars, bringing the total budget slicing to roughly $1 million.
“You lose 70 percent of your funding, you’ve got to make significant cuts in your programming,” Harper said.
Those cuts will include the consolidation or elimination of certain programs along with staff layoffs.
“It’s pretty overwhelming,” Harper added.
So what does the center do now?
“We expand the work we do that is still here,” Harper said. The center may be able to move into different areas, for example putting vans that had been used for adult day health to other purposes. Center officials also will consider ways to increase revenue, possibly holding more events or asking the various communities the center serves for some help. Harper also talked about potentially raising fees.
Although it’s all about to change, at its two sites in Bothell and Kirkland, Northshore’s adult day health program serves about 260 people ranging in age from 21 to 106. The program provides medical care from staff nurses, physical rehabilitation, meals and activities, all designed, in the words of program officials, to get senior citizens and disabled persons moving again.
As she has in the past, Harper said adult day health won’t disappear from Northshore, but stated it will look considerably different.
“There will be cuts and we will be smaller,” she said. With the elimination of transportation funding, remaining participants will have to find their own way to the center. For those who simply won’t be able to take part in the program going forward, Harper said their access to health care will be reduced, emergency room visits will increase and in worst-case scenarios, some will end up in nursing homes as their families will be unable to care for them on their own.
“They’re nervous and they’re anxious,” Harper said of those who currently use the center. “We’ve definitely hit a major speed bump.”
Visiting the local campus last month, University of Washington President Mark Emmert said the potential cuts to the state’s higher education budget were “staggering in their magnitude.”
“These numbers are waving the white flag and saying, ‘We surrender,’” Emmert said.
At least some of what Emmert feared has, in fact, come to pass.
“As with other institutions of higher learning, UW-Bothell will feel the impact of budget cuts,” said university spokesperson Elizabeth Fischtziur.
In a press release, UW-Bothell Chancellor Kenyon Chan talked about appropriations being “significantly reduced,” but did not go into specifics.
According to Fischtziur, the campus will incur a 21-percent reduction in operating funds. While the news might not be welcomed by students, Fischtziur continued that those cuts will be offset partially by tuition increases of up to 14 percent.
Those increases have been authorized by the state legislature, but still must be approved by the university’s board of regents. Fischtziur maintained some students may not notice any increase.
“We are fortunate that with increases in Pell Grants and Hope Tax Credits, most students will not incur an overall increase in their tuition,” she said. Those extra dollars were made available in the federal economic stimulus package, according to Chan.
Fischtziur did not go into detail about what programs or services might be sliced as a result of the funding cuts. But layoffs may be in the offing.
According to Fischtziur, university officials still are in talks over a new contract with employees at Cascadia Community College. Those contracts should be finalized in a week or two. Fischtziur said until those contacts are completed, it’s impossible to know for sure if layoffs will be necessary. She did say officials are “working diligently to avoid them.”
“UW-Bothell is navigating budget challenges with an eye toward the future and remains committed to its growth, ” Fischtziur said.
Chan said in one positive note for the school, UW-Bothell is to receive $5 million toward the design of what will be its third building, UW3.
The building eventually will house the campus’ science, engineering and mathematics programs.