To most folks, the mandated federal budget cuts known collectively as the "sequester" are little more than words in a headline. But just as all politics is local, so ultimately are many of the ongoing reductions in federal spending.
One of the hardest-hit programs of the sequester in Maryville appears to be the Nodaway County Senior Center, which will feel the budget ax to the tune of $17,000 during its upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Senior Center Administrator Amie Firavich said federal dollars make up well over a third of the center's $300,000 budget and will be trimmed next year from $134,000 to $117,000.
The cut is merely the latest in a series of reductions imposed by Washington that began around 2011, when the Senior Center received $151,000 in federal dollars. Firavich said all indications point to more federal austerity to come.
"It's just going to keep dropping," she said.
Much of the rest of the funding for the Senior Center comes from a small "senior tax" added to county property tax bills, and Firavich said so far the center has been able to make up for declining federal revenues through fundraisers, private donations and help from the United Way.
This year's reduction, however, has her worried.
Over the past year, the center had to raise an additional $23,000 in its annual effort to make up the difference between expenses and income. Next year's budget gap stands at a projected $40,000, and Firavich said she wonders just when the fiscal hill will become too steep to climb.
The Senior Center's biggest fundraiser of the year, its Christmastime "Light a Candle" campaign, usually takes in about $3,000, she said. Its next biggest event, the Senior Center Garage Sale, scheduled for 7 a.m.-noon Saturday, May 11, typically raises another $1,200 or so. A new fundraiser, a motorcycle "poker run," is planned for this summer.
Most center donations and support, Firavich said, tend to come from the same group of people, and she's concerned that appeals for more assistance are being made to those who are already helping out all they can.
"We've been talking and trying to think, 'Where do we pull it from?'" she said.
By far the biggest service the center provides for aging Nodaway County residents is its meals program, which consists of more than 100 Meals on Wheels deliveries countywide Monday through Friday and 80 or 90 lunches served daily at the center itself.
Each meal costs the center $6.50 to prepare, $1.30 of which is covered by federal dollars. Over-60 patrons are asked for a $3 donation, and the center makes up the $2.20 difference with local funding.
At the current level of service, the total food budget over 12 months is about $100,000, Firavich said. Additional center expenses include $1,200 a month for utilities plus salaries for an eight-person staff, four of whom — Firavich and three cooks — are full time.
Page 2 of 2 - Besides nutritional assistance, the Senior Center also offers seminars, such as a recent class on how older people can protect themselves from computer scams; access to exercise and recreation equipment; free tax assistance; and social gatherings such as dances and live music.