Friday, January 13, 2006
Selectmen hear COA FY07 budget requests
The Council on Aging (COA) requested budget for FY07 reflects a decrease in total salaries and an increase in expenses. Director Jane Williams, accompanied by Chairman Ted Read and Treasurer Jim Elgin, presented the COA FY07 budget to the Board of Selectmen at their January 10 meeting. "This shift reflects our intent to make better use of our van drivers and spend more effort delivering needed programs to the elderly population," said Williams.
Because of this shift, the COA's requested expense budget does not comply with the 2% planning guideline put forward by the Finance Committee. Using last year's total for salaries and expenses, and assuming guideline increases of 3.5% and 2% respectively, the guideline for the total COA budget is $65,867. Their proposed budget total is $65,759, well within the guideline. "Many of our program expenses reflect our objective of increasing the number and quality of opportunities for seniors to socialize, which is widely recognized as an important ingredient for graceful aging," said Williams.
Proposed COA program spending is $1,906 higher than planned expenditures in FY06. This is due primarily to a focus on providing higher quality food to clients and to increased attendance. The COA currently has four "large" luncheons per year requiring the use of the facilities at the First Religious Society to accommodate the 60 or more attendees. More money is being spent to provide higher quality and more variety in the choices at the monthly men's breakfasts, for which the attendance has also increased substantially. Proposed spending on fuel for the new mini-bus is $1,992 more than planned for FY06. This is due primarily to higher fuel costs at the pump and a plan to use the new mini-bus for more long-distance trips.
Both the COA director and the outreach coordinator are working many more hours than they are currently allowed to submit for compensation. The COA "level service" budget would close this gap by suggesting a one-third increase in the hours chargeable by both the director and the outreach coordinator. This would result in a request for an additional $8,000 in salary spending for the COA in FY07 and would increase the director's hours from 15 to 20 and the outreach coordinator's from 12 to 16.
This additional workload has developed because of several factors. First, the COA is reaching out to a larger number of seniors in town. It is working to have activities that encourage seniors to start participating at a younger age than in the past, and then continue this participation as they grow older. Second, there is an increasing need to be aware of changes in the law and the effect on the services offered by the COA. Medicare-D, the federal program which went into effect January 1, is a classic example. The COA staff has been inundated with calls for help in trying to unravel the myriad different plans, costs, and benefits. Third, it takes time to plan and execute activities. Staff members attending luncheons and other events help seniors to feel comfortable discussing concerns and issues of interest.
"There is a real danger in continually asking people to work hours for which they are not compensated," concluded Williams. "Over time, contempt for the job develops and the spirit of doing whatever is needed diminishes. This is not conjecture, but fact that came up several times during the recent search for a new COA director."
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