Mahwah senior citizens will likely have fewer classes to choose from at the township’s senior center this year, thanks to a $6,000 reduction in funding that will likely be part of Mahwah’s final municipal budget this year.
At a hearing on the proposed 2013 budget last week, Councilman John Roth suggested reducing the Senior Center’s budget for professional services from the requested $36,000 to $30,000 for the year. The money is used to pay class instructors.
The cut “is not a reflection on the senior center…but we need to start making reductions [to the budget] without doing severe damage,” to services offered by the township, Roth said.
According to Roth, the Senior Center hasn’t actually spent $36,000 on teachers for senior center classes during either of the past two years, it’s spent less.
But, Senior Center Director Suzanne Small said illnesses and teacher retirements have impacted the expenditures over the past two years, and the center was looking forward to a full course load for senior citizens this year.
The classes offered daily to seniors – which range from jassercize and yoga to Zumba and knitting – “are the lifeline of the Senior Center,” she said. Cutting $6,000 “will hurt the program.”
The center pays its part-time instructors $50 per class. With the budget cut, Small said she would likely be forced to lay off instructors and offer fewer classes.
According to Small, over the past nine years, the senior center has grown to over 1,800 members who are all Mahwah residents between the ages of 62 and 99. Some of the center’s most popular classes regularly have 50-70 attendees, she said.
The town council was split on the decision to cut the senior center budget, it passed with a 4-3 vote. And, the decision is not final. It will be incorporated into the budget document, which can still be revised before it is introduced and adopted later this year. The council is in the middle of budget hearings that assess the 2013 spending plans of every township department.
Though the class offerings may be shrinking, the council is not likely to start charging seniors to attend classes at the center, which are currently offered to them for free. Councilman Roy Larsen suggested charging a minimal fee for classes to help cover the cost of the instructors, but Small and other members of the council rejected the idea.
“Many seniors would not be able to continue to participate,” if the center started to charge for classes, Small said.
The township’s next budget hearing is Wednesday night.