By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
As has been the case with many budgets recently, the finances for the Seward County Council on Aging have taken a hit.
After receiving nearly $315,000 in 2009 and nearly $317,000 in 2010 from Seward County, the agency is projected to get nearly $270,000 in 2011 – a drop of just under $50,000.
Part of that allocation goes to the Kismet Senior Center, and despite the decrease, some members of that organization would like to see the amount the Council on Aging gives the center to increase.
Members of both agencies were at Monday’s Seward County Commission meeting to attempt to reach an agreement about the issue. Robert Gittinger of the Kismet Senior Center said the budget situation between the two groups has been somewhat controversial for some time.
“For the 2011 budget, Kismet would like to make a few changes,” he said. “We believe for whatever the total county budget may be, perhaps, Kismet should have 10 percent or in that neighborhood. Kismet does have a little reserve, and we have worked hard to get that. We had a lot of volunteers. I understand Liberal doesn’t have quite as many volunteers, but we do not even pay somebody to take the check to Plains to the bank.”
Nancy Louderback of the Council on Aging said she thought the issue was settled.
“We had a meeting with the Kismet board, and everybody agreed that this is right,” she said. “We would take a cut, and they would get what they had last year.”
Louderback said for the last six years, the Senior Center has got 8.6 percent of the Council’s budget. That number increased to 9 percent for the upcoming budget year, but Louderback said she believes the seniors in Kismet only represent 2 to 4 percent of the senior population in Seward County.
“They’ve never really told us why they need this extra money,” she said. “According to their checking account, they’ve got $19,498.27 in their checking account, plus they have a CD that has $8,650.78. It’s not that their lacking money. They get paid every month right on time.”
Commissioner Toby Hale said he doesn’t feel the 10 percent figure is out of line.
“It should be based on the percent, so when the value of a mill goes up, they will get a bigger check,” he said. “The value of a mill goes down, they’ll get a lesser check.”
Hale emphasized the $40,000 drop in the Council on Aging’s allocation.
“It doesn’t seem quite appropriate to me to increase the other budget by $3,000,” he said. “I think we could do that on 10 percent on the 2012 budget. I have no problem with separating the disbursement of funds.”
This would mean rather than allocating funds to the Council on Aging and then dispersing a portion of them to the Kismet Senior Center, separate checks would be sent to each agency from the county. County administrator Mary Bloomer said the composition of the bylaws for each entity would need to be changed.
“The Council on Aging’s purpose would not be hurt if distribution was made individually, but your board has pretty much decided what the distribution to each entity is this year,” she said. “I think the question is how it will be distributed for 2011.”
Gittinger pointed to the approximately 20,000 population of Liberal, many of whom are seniors.
“Not all of them attend,” he said of Liberal’s senior center. “Kismet has some very good seniors attend all the time. They don’t all attend, and yes, we do have reserves set aside. We have a 20-year-old facility. We think the 10 percent is fair.”
Bloomer was asked if the money that was sent to Kismet as part of the separate distributions would be sent as a full check or installments. She said the money will be sent monthly, as it is now done with the Council on Aging.
Commissioner Steve “Ike” Eisenhauer questioned whether making the payments separately was being done legally. The commission would later vote 4-0 with commissioner C.J. Wettstein absent to make the payments separately. Bloomer said the board was not changing any budgetary amounts.
“It’s just we’re going to split the distribution into two monthly payments instead of one,” she said. “There should be no issues.”
Bloomer said the adoption of the county’s 2011 budget earlier this year by resolution should cover any question about the amount the Kismet Senior Center receives.
“The budget sheet that you approved shows Kismet as a line item of $24,000 and shows the full amount that Council on Aging was to receive,” she said to the commission. “It has the all encompassed amount. There should be no issues.”