Senior services to be cut
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On top of previous state spending cuts and federal sequestration cuts, the new 7.5 percent budget cut will force the Bureau of Senior Services to scale back services to senior citizens, Commissioner Robert Roswell told the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday.
"This year, there's no place left for us to cut, other than service delivery funds," Roswell said.
The bureau's proposed $88.31 million 2014-15 budget includes $1.67 million in spending cuts, the largest being a $439,875 reduction, cutting in half the appropriation for Aged and Disabled Resource Centers around the state.
"If we didn't cut there, we were going to have to cut more in services, $430,000 to hands-on services to seniors," Roswell said.
He noted that a legislative audit released earlier this month found that the 10 centers, which provide a clearinghouse of information on programs and services available to senior and disabled West Virginians, duplicate services offered by the Department of Health and Human Resources and by the state office of Rehabilitation Services.
The 10 ADRC offices are in close proximity to senior centers and Rehabilitation Services offices, and generally have few walk-in clients, the audit found.
Nearly 78 percent of contacts are by telephone, with a smaller percentage by email exchanges, the audit noted.
"Certainly, it's more of a email or phone-based service. It's not a lot of people walking in for services," Roswell said.
He said a few of the 10 offices may remain open, after each location is evaluated.
The offices are located in Dunbar, Elkins, Fairmont, Milton, Lewisburg, Martinsburg, Parkersburg, Petersburg, Princeton and Wheeling.
"We can pick out three that are more productive than the others," he said. According to the legislative audit, the Dunbar, Petersburg and Princeton offices had the busiest workloads.
Also, the proposed budget calls for a $250,000 cut to senior center programs, a 22 percent reduction, to $898,132; and a $479,059 cut to in-home nutrition services, a 10.6 percent reduction, to $4.02 million.
Roswell said $100,000 of state funding for a West Virginia Helpline operated by AARP would be eliminated.
Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said cutting senior services was disturbing.
"This is one of the first times we're actually here talking about cutting services with these budget cuts," he said.
"The bureau is a service-delivery agency," Roswell responded. "If we cut, that's what we end up cutting."
More than half of the bureau's total budget comes from state Lottery revenues, and Lottery funding in the 2014-15 budget is slated to drop $5.99 million to $46.92 million, he said.
Reach Phil Kabler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1220.