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Crowd Fights Cuts to Mahwah Senior Center Classes

Town council members said they are willing to ‘compromise’ on a $6,000 reduction to the township’s senior center budget for running exercise and other classes

A group of over 100 township senior citizens say a is unfair, and asked town council members to reconsider the cut.

The crowd gathered at town hall Wednesday morning for a Senior Center Advisory Committee meeting at which they explained to council members why the cut would compromise one of the services they love most about Mahwah.

“It is very important for our health and happiness to be able to come here and participate in line dancing or Zumba,” resident Carol Mayberry said.

“We moved to Mahwah for the senior center,” resident Felicia Fox added.

According to a statement from Senior Center Director Suzanne Small, the $6,000 reduction to the professional services portion of the senior center budget would force the center to drop its offerings from 11 classes to 8. Classes are free for seniors to attend and are offered daily.

“Senior citizens are often thought of as the first people you can take advantage of when it comes to cuts,” Mayberry said. “But, [these classes] are very important to us.”

According to Councilman John Roth, who was one of three council members at the meeting Wednesday, the reduction will actually be an increase over what the Center paid to conduct classes over the past two years.

In 2011 and 2012, the classes cost about $28,000 to run. Senior Center representatives said costs were down the past two years because of instructor retirements and illnesses. But, this year it was planning to return to a full course load, at an estimated cost of $36,000.

Roth told seniors the proposed budget reduction is “not necessarily cutting things.” The cut, he said, would reduce the Senior Center’s overall operating budget from the $163,000 requested to $157,000, which is still more than the $151,000 the Center actually spent to operate last year.

Council members are in the midst of meeting with many of the township’s department heads in an effort to reduce the proposed 2013 budget, which calls for a 4.9% increase in taxes.

According to Mayor Bill Laforet, the increase will amount to $59 for the average homeowner in Mahwah.

“That increase [would] affect every citizen in the township,” Roth said. “And every senior citizen on a fixed income.”

Roth also reiterated his support for an idea proposed by Councilman Roy Larson at the last budget meeting - having the seniors pay a small fee to attend each class. But, Senior Center Committee Chair Pat Spiech said a past attempt to charge for an art class proved unsuccessful.

The council members who attended Wednesday's meeting - who were three of the four who voted for the cut - said they would reconsider the $6,000 cut at a future budget meeting of the full township council. Members said they are willing to “compromise” because of the seniors’ show of support for the classes.

Several seniors said they left the meeting hopeful that council members would reinstate the money, and the full course load of classes would continue to be offered in 2013.

“Compromise is a big word for them to use,” Fox said. “So, we’ll see what happens.”

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Hank February 21, 2013 at 01:43 PM
If there was such a need for more Zumba why didn't the same 100 people just ask the head of the senior center to spend the money they already had? They had 2 years. I'm not buying they could not find instructors. Sounds like there is no demand for additional services.
Kim Daehnke February 21, 2013 at 03:37 PM
These are the same people who vote against the school budget. But cut $6 grand out of theirs....let the parents of school children vote on it.
ClayporkmeatMann February 21, 2013 at 08:06 PM
I don't think the town should cut the funds from the seniors period. They've grown to an age where their friends start departing from this world. These programs as tax heavy as they are allow these people to have fun and make friends and assure you I'd rather see the school be cut budgetwise because of their last escapade. Did anyone of you know that the school reciently just spent 5k on motion sensors in the forest behind the school to catch "offcampus ruffians" which could of been spent elsewhere. If you cant read i'll sum it up. Programs = Old People Happyness, School $ = 5,000$ in worthless security cameras.
Gottardo DiGiacopo February 21, 2013 at 08:27 PM
Kim, it's truly good that you illustrate another side of the story. WTS, voting against a school budget at their age is for many seniors 'a rite of passage'. we often wish it were different but we also need to understand. Now let's cut everything!!! J.K. :O)
Dorothy February 21, 2013 at 08:54 PM
fyi, I am a senior citizen, I believe in supporting the school budget, have never voted down a budget in the 52 years I have lived here. It is good for the future of Mahwah. A town supported senior center is important also, and good for the future of Mahwah. A compromise on the budget request may be the answer.
Hank February 21, 2013 at 09:01 PM
The senior group did not get cut. They left $8,000 on the table for 2 years in a row. 1,800 members could not figure out how to spend the 8 grand? It's their own fault They made it obvious they don't need the money. They screwed up and should live with it. 100 seniors showing up at a meeting does not mean they deserve extra money
Ellen Z February 21, 2013 at 09:31 PM
Every department/group in Mahwah should be prepared to par down their budget, unfortunately that means Seniors too. There can be no sacred cows. Lower taxes or less of a tax increase = less out of each residents pockets. Why do we need organized Zumba classes? Put on some music, dance, have fun, and stay healthy. That's not a mystery. I love being a senior. I worked hard for many years and want my good times as much as anyone else. More importantly I want to be able to afford to remain in my home! Take my medications, eat, and enjoy simple pleasures like turning on the radio and dancing. It is more important to me to have my garbage picked-up, my street plowed, have an ambulance respond God forbid I should need it, and have the police patrol my streets. Come on people prioritize. Thank you John Roth! Renter this applies to you too. If you rent perhaps this year's increase won't be quite as much.
Ira February 21, 2013 at 10:05 PM
So, 6 K a year causes such commotion? How much are yearly rises for all town employees ? Don't remember hearing anything about savings on this front. How about privatizing recycling? How much savings in that?
Andy Schmidt February 21, 2013 at 10:22 PM
FWIW - I'm willing to pay my extra $59 this year. One less trip to a chain restaurant, or a few less downloads, one movie trip less... it's doable. Whether it's school budgets or senior center - it adds long-term value to the town that my property is in.
Ralph February 21, 2013 at 11:03 PM
Sure Andy, you might be willing to pay the $59.00 but that is so shortsighted on your part. There are many people on fixed incomes who cant pay that increase. By the way, the $59.00 is just for the average assessed house in Mahwah. The cost will be more based on the assessed value of the home, and lets not forget this is not the total tax increase. This is just the town budget. When you add it all up with the increase in the school tax, Bergen Cty Tax, Library Tax and god knows what other tax, you are looking at a $300 tax increase to a house assessed at the average. Andy, do you still care to pay the total cost for me and you. If not I say at least someone is looking out for the taxpayer in Mahwah. Keep the cuts coming!!!
Sandy February 22, 2013 at 01:08 AM
Cutting 4 classes is not the end of the world, especially with all that is offered for FREE. We all have to give and take to make ends meet. Our taxes go up every year. I don't like paying what I do for school taxes but I have no choice. Be grateful for what you have and make the best of it.
Mona Lot February 22, 2013 at 11:24 AM
If my calculatiuons are correct , $6000.00 budget cut divided by 1800 registered seniors comes to a grand total of $3.33 per person,shame on you seniors when someones job is on the line,suck it up and pay the $3.33 for your Zumba.
Andy Schmidt February 22, 2013 at 04:17 PM
Hi Ralph, yes, I'm willing to cough up $59.00 a year more for the town to maintain services - so that the township real estate continues to remain desirable - and yes, the same applies to the school budget (even more so). And for homes that are worth MORE than average - I am not worried about their ability to do so. I do support, however, investigating any opportunity to maintain the same services (or better) and a lesser cost.
hsr February 25, 2013 at 03:01 PM
Come on seniors stop being so tight. You can contribute to your classes too. How many towns provide so much in a way of the building you have and other perks. I'm a senior too and I know this won't hurt you. Stop being greedy. You make us all look bad. Young families have a lot tougher time now.
Kim Daehnke March 01, 2013 at 05:21 PM
Which per person is a single dollar per month. TY to the seniors who still support the school budget and know a strong school system is our greatest asset.
Leaking Ink March 21, 2013 at 01:21 PM
I met a Senior who wanted to play cards. I asked her why she didn't just go to the Mahwah Senior Center. She said because she can't drive, and the Van for Seniors is only used for when the Senior Center has luncheons. Therefore, she can't utilize the Senior Center except when they have a luncheon. Is it true that the Senior Van only transports to and from the Senior Center on days when they have a luncheon? If ture, that's awfully isolating for Seniors who can't drive.

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