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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.

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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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