And, because of funding issues this year, they will have to find $70,000 to $85,000 to keep the program going just through September.
Commissioner Dennis DeWitt said during the their meeting, “During the budget hearing this past week, it was explained to us that around $66,000 is already deficient in the senior citizens program, and Bee County tax payers will have to pay that unless we come up with some kind of solution...”
Anna Simo, executive director at the Bee Community Action Agency, told commissioners Tuesday that they have been working for months to find the funds to keep the program going but have been unsuccessful.
The reason for the budget shortfall is partially due to what the Community Services Block Grant would fund and unbudgeted expenses such as vehicle repairs.
Simo said that they are able to reduce expenses by reducing employee hours, giving furloughs to administrative staff and other cost saving measures.
But even that isn’t enough to get them back in the black.
“We have tried to solve our problems within BCAA,” Simo said.
The meals program provides food to elderly, disadvantaged people within the county either by delivery to their home or served at a central location. The program in Bee County was being funded based upon an estimate that 54 people were being served.
That number though was actually 30 people.
Commissioner Carlos Salazar echoed comments from other court members that his primary concern was for those seniors who receive meals delivered to their homes.
“I am more concerned about those that are homebound and cannot get a meal,” Salazar said.
Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez said that those who go to the center could go to one of the other four agencies that provide meals.
“I know we have at least three that feed them — maybe all four,” Rodriguez said.
“They would be more than happy to feed them,” Salazar added.
Currently, the BCAA delivers meals to 98 people within the county.
Could they reduce that number, County Judge David Silva asked?
Rodriguez said, “Probably, Judge, because a lot of people just don’t want to get dressed and go and come back. Why do all that when you can turn on your TV and eat your meal at home?”
But if Bee County doesn’t fund a meal program— then who will?
Simo said, “If Bee County doesn’t provide a service, then it would be the responsibility of the Area Agency on Aging to find a provider for Bee County.”
The decision to discontinue the program wasn’t easy for commissioners.
“I feel for everyone that is going to effected. But we are dealing with taxpayer money that we don’t have,” Rodriguez said.
All the commissioners voiced concern that they were not notified of the issue until now when it appeared as though officials within BCAA knew of the funding difficulties.
Commissioner Ken Haggard said, “(Simo) said last year was very trying to make ends meet.
“These drastic measures should have been started last year.
“You don’t run your household this way, and we should not run this this way.
“I don’t think this has been watched like it should have.”
Commissioners were solemn as they all agreed they had no option for now but to discontinue the funding for this program.
Silva said, “Pretty much, we are saying next year we aren’t going to do this.
“For our purposes here, I want to be clear. For next year, Bee County will not in the game.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.