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Budget Cuts Will Likely Cost Senior Center Classes

The township council voted to cut the Mahwah Senior Center budget for 2013 by $6,000, which the organization's director said will likely lead to fewer classes for seniors

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.

Submit your questions or news tips to jessica.mazzola@patch.com. And, remember to sign up for Patch's daily newsletter, and get updates on Facebook and Twitter.

taxpayer1 February 12, 2013 at 12:13 PM
Way to go Councilman Roth. Cut the seniors after everything they haven given to our community. How about for paying your trip to League of Municipality meeting and giving seniors their money back. How much does this save our taxpayers 50 cents a house ?
taxpayer1 February 12, 2013 at 01:46 PM
Let the Councilman Roth circus budget circus begin. Next paper clip counting to make sure we're not wasting paper clips. Are they missing the big picture the town has a 35 million dollar budget and now they have to answer for years of wasteful spending.
Phyllis A. Stewart February 12, 2013 at 02:44 PM
We need to keep the Senior Center functioning as the popular place it is for socialization of many seniors, who would otherwise spend many of their days in isolated solitude. Suzanne and Rosalie do a marvelous job of establishing a warm and welcoming atmosphere. I personally have enjoyed many of their classes and trips and would be happy to contribute to keep the entire program functioning at its present level. Perhaps we could establish a voluntary annual fund drive, just as we do with other worthy organizations in town.
BC Lib February 12, 2013 at 05:43 PM
Everybody wants services, no one wants to pay for them. Think of this cut when you head to the polls and vote.
Dorothy February 12, 2013 at 05:43 PM
Most senior incomes does not increase annually, but their daily cost of living expenses do. Seniors ask very little, but the classes and hospitality at the senior center add to the quality of life here in Mahwah. Is a cut in services to seniors really necessary? -- look elsewhere.
Hank February 12, 2013 at 06:51 PM
Wait a second The town gives the seniors a state of the art building with all the bells and whistles for free Utilities are free TV,internet, media...free Membership is free Transportation is free Mahwah is even willing to kick in an extra $30,000 You should be happy with what you have.
NJR February 12, 2013 at 06:59 PM
To bad the seniors don't have a union rep like the DPW does. The town needs to speak up to Mr Roth and tell him leave the seniors alone!and cut the big cuts like recycling. Did Mr Roth cut the cable tv budget? since thats his little office that he runs in town I bet that didn't get cut.
Thurston Howell III February 12, 2013 at 07:09 PM
Maybe the seniors should get a big rat for front lawn at the town hall for John Roth.
Educated Citizen February 12, 2013 at 07:55 PM
Jessica, Why is it that you only wrote an article about the budget being cut for the Senior Center when every department was also forced to cut? The recreation department was forced to cut their budget even more after already reducing the budget $7,000 on their own. The Senior Center has a budget of over $300,000, which in previous years has not been fully used. The money taken out of the budget is excess. Why would you highlight only one department to make it seem like the Council is only taking from the Senior Center when all departments were affected by budget cuts? Thanks
Andy Schmidt February 12, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Over the next few meetings there'll be many more proposals of what services the town would have to cut. Once done, maybe suddenly the idea that some services can be provided/sourced differently - but at a lower cost - won't sound so bad any more... Yes, think about it when you vote - it was the state who took away our freedom to choose, whether we want to pay through our taxes for keeping township and school services & personnel!
Chardel Vyjial February 12, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Why does Mr Roth think it's his job to keep DPW works jobs at tax payers expense? when it could save us all money and we wouldn't need to cut a little item like the seniors classes for $6,000.00
Jonathan N. Marcus February 12, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Not that Jessica needs defending, but based upon the different articles I see her posting, it appears she is posting numerous articles over time about various issues that were raised at last week's Township Council meeting. For instance, there is another article she posted about Ambulance Corp. response times. That was from another presentation that was made at the meeting. I suspect that Jessica will be posting articles each day where she highlights a different issue raised at the last Township Council meeting. I would expect to see an article about the Council's review of the Recreation budget, Clerk's budget, Administrator's budget, Mayor's budget and all the other issues discussed at last week's meeting. This was a VERY long meeting that went until after midnight. I can tell you that by the end of that meeting, the only people in the room besides the members of the Council were myself and Jessica. Jessica is very committed to our township and does a wonderful job reporting on the issues that matter. I look forward to seeing further articles with her. I also look forward to seeing folks at tomorrow's night's special meeting where the Township Council will be continuing their department reviews. I am sure we will see Jessica there as well!
rodney van dunk February 12, 2013 at 09:27 PM
all towns are hurting i think you should get volunteers to teach the zumba classes and save money and the tax payer
Brett February 12, 2013 at 09:33 PM
If my daughter wants to play sports in town, I have to pay. If she wants to use the town pool, I have to pay. Why shouldn't seniors be charged something nominal to offset some of the costs that they are getting from the town? Hank had a great idea....charge them all $20 for the year. It'll bring in $36,000 if all 1,800 "members" pay. $20 is not a lot of money.
Andy Schmidt February 12, 2013 at 10:35 PM
Hi Hank - on the other hand, the town "gives" kids playgrounds, teens ballsfields and a skate park and upgraded pool facility... Frankly, I don't think your tit-for-tat to divide the generations is really constructive. Different population segments do have different needs that the town needs to address, based on their age, physical ability, mobility/transportation, income,... Kids have social circles from pre-school through high school, working adults have their own kids, co-workers and other parents - but seniors could easily become isolated with increasing age, possibly widowed, smart enough not to drive their own car, etc. I don't agree that the town is going over board with the services they offer this population segment! A working age adult can always pursue other jobs and opportunities - a senior cannot reduce the physical and social effects of aging and their ever-shrinking pool of peers.
Mona Lot February 12, 2013 at 11:35 PM
We all know where your coming from CV and what side of the tracks,you think its all Mr. Roth doing?,I would back him 100%.
Hank February 13, 2013 at 12:58 AM
On the other hand if each of the 1,800 seniors paid a mere $20.00 then that would cover the entire $36,000 or a mere $3.50 apiece would cover the $6,000 shortfall
Bill Goffredo February 13, 2013 at 05:15 AM
Perhaps Councilman Roth could teach the classes and donate his services to the community...just sayin...LOL In all seriousness, this is the world we live in...towns are struggling to make budgets and non-essential services will always be the first to go. At least this is only a suggested reduction and not an elimination.
Hank February 13, 2013 at 02:39 PM
If he teaches a Zumba class I'll send my $20.00 in right now
Mona Lot February 14, 2013 at 11:04 AM
The "Seniors" didn't use all of last years budget so why should they not get last years budget which was $6000.00 less than budgeted, kinda makes sense to me.
Pat O'Donnell February 18, 2013 at 02:11 PM
I am so sorry I voted for Roth. We seniors have paid taxes all our adult lives. We haven't used the schools we are paying for for over 45 years. We too had to pay for our children to participate in town sports. The senior center is such an important part of our lives. It helps us to pass the time as we face the limitations of aging. For some of us whose families live in different states it is an important means of socialization,maybe the only one. Many Seniors give back to the community by volunteering their time and talents. PLEASE don't take our small pleasures away from us. We are on fixed incomes and it is very scary not knowing how long our incomes will sustain us.

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