The Buffalo Senior Center will seek to create a special district in an effort to ensure the financial viability of a number of programs, including the popular cafeteria and home-delivered meals program.
The Buffalo Senior Center is seeking voter approval to create a special district authorized to levy 2 mills in an effort to create a more stable source of revenue for the center.
“The purpose for the special district in our mind is the security,” said A.J. Mock, the senior center’s director. “Financial security is really what we’re hoping for. What if a new administration comes in and changes Title III? That’s where we receive all of our federal grants.”
One of the center’s major programs funded through Title III funds are the meals served in the cafeteria and via home delivery. This year, the center is on pace to serve more than 13,000 meals in their cafeteria; more than 11,000 meals will be delivered to seniors in their homes, allowing them to remain independent.
Title III grants also help fund the National Family Caregiver support program, as well as many activities, social events and education, Mock said.
“If we get an administration, or Congress decides that social community-based senior services are no longer as important and they cut us, how do we still provide services to the community?” Mock said.
Mock said the center is an important part of many seniors’ lives, providing their primary source of nutrition and social interaction, according to Mock.
All of these services come with significant cost.
In fiscal year 2018, the senior center budget totaled $877,927. The center received $161,895 in grants from the state of Wyoming and $236,822 in federal grants. Funds from Johnson County amount to $50,000, and the City of Buffalo contributed $51,247. The Johnson County Recreation District board paid $8,000, according to Mock.
According to Wyoming statute, a Senior Citizens District can be formed by resolution of the county commissioners and a public referendum or vote. Mock proposes to put the issue before voters in the November 2020 general election. Forming a special district requires a simple majority vote.
“I fully endorse what the Senior Center Board and their director are planning, and I hope the voters will support the creation of the senior district,” Johnson County Commissioner Chairman Bill Novotny said.
The senior center would fall under the “special district” process according to Wyoming state statute, meaning the Johnson County commissioners would first vote to create a resolution creating the special district. The district’s name would depend on county commissioners, but most likely will be known as the Senior Services District, Mock said.
“The socioeconomic study we completed with the University of Wyoming verifies the graying of our local population,” Novotny said. “With this dynamic, the pressures put on the senior center, the YMCA, home health and the hospital to provide services will only increase. State and federal funding has remained stagnant so we will rely upon local government and private individuals to come up with the funds to meet the needs of our senior community.”
Wyoming statute allows Senior Citizen Districts to levy up to 2 mills.
At the county’s current property valuation, the Senior Service Special District could generate $712,000 annually for operations.
Mock also added that as a special district, the senior center would no longer receive funding from all other local government funding sources like the 1% funds, Johnson County Recreation District or the City of Buffalo severance tax.
Senior services districts are nothing new in Wyoming. Currently Big Horn, Platte, Crook, Converse and Niobrara counties all have senior service districts according to Mock.
“We’re way out in front of this,” Mock said. “We will be approaching the county commissioners in the January or February time frame.”