Seniors at the Chestertown mealsite enjoy a luncheon meal recently. The kitchens at various mealsites are to be closed down, which some county officials said this week would likely reduce participation in the program.
Senior community mealsites through Warren County will be retained, but the kitchens in the eight locations will be shut down, according to a decision reached Monday, Nov. 7 by the Warren County Board of Supervisors.
The 2012 budget revisions endorsed Monday included restoring payments of $7,000 to $18,000 per year to various churches and towns and organizations for funding the county mealsites.
The community mealsites were to be closed down entirely in an earlier budget proposal drafted in late October.
This latest proposal calls for preparing meals at two central locations, which would still eliminate six county jobs of mealsite managers and cooks, as well as substitute workers. Such cutbacks would likely also eliminate several other town-funded jobs of part-time helpers at the mealsites across the county.
The mealsite job cuts are estimated to save county taxpayers $124,680. The existing Meals-on-Wheels program, which delivers hot meals to several hundred homebound residents, is to continue without changes.
The meals for the elderly and disabled would be prepared at The Cedars Senior Living Community in Queensbury as well as Countryside Adult Home in Warrensburg — and many of the existing mealsite jobs would shift to these two facilities. The meals would then be prepared and delivered to the mealsites in the satellite communities.
The changes are anticipated to begin in January.
The new revisions to the proposed 2012 budget endorsed Nov. 7 include $236,000 of additional revenue representing a Medicaid payment that had not been included in earlier budget drafts. The unexpected extra payment is due to an extra payment scheduled from the state to the county in 2012.
The new draft of the budget calls for spending $145.24 million, a $3,163 decrease from 2011, but a 1.7 increase in local tax levy, due to reduced reimbursement from the state linked to their mandated programs.
The prior proposed budget drafted in October reflected a 1.9 percent increase in tax levy over 2011.
Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino said he objected to the lack of local meal preparation.
“The Seniors enjoy smelling the food being prepared,” he said, noting the seniors attending meals at the Lake Luzerne mealsite come in early and enjoy socializing with the workers who may not be there come January. “It won’t be the same experience.”
Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe also said he opposed the off-site meal preparation, which would mean local job cuts and might prompt a decline in participation.
“This is very troubling,” he said. “We’re cutting services to the citizens who are most vulnerable.”
County Budget Committee members Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover and Merlino voted against the cutbacks. Monroe does not serve on the panel.
Queensbury Supervisor David Strainer suggested that the county negotiate lower leases with the owners of the buildings that house the mealsites, due to abandoning use of their kitchens as of Jan. 1.
Monroe said the budget cuts for 2011 were far too deep, eliminating all but one planner in the planning department, which he noted had brought $28 million into the county over the last several decades. He credited Department director Pat Tatich and senior planner Wayne LaMothe for obtaining grants that have vital to so many of limited income in northern Warren County.
“We just can’t replace their expertise,” he said. “We’re throwing away 30 years of their experience.”