Executives of the town's two seniors' centres came to Halton Hills budget committee's public night last week with their hands out, but each for different reasons. Citing age and physical limitations that has put a crimp in fundraising efforts since 2003, a financially-strapped Georgetown Seniors Centre requested a reduction in its required 33 per cent financial contribution to the centre's operating budget. The centre wants it reduced to 25 per cent, which is consistent with the Acton centre's contribution. If approved, the reduction amounts to a $14,500 cost to the Town. Treasurer and director George Ohashi, speaking to the budget committee (all members of council), said the centre is also feeling the loss of Trillium grant funding ($35,000/year) this year, a 5 per cent rental increase and a decrease in business sponsorship. "Also the fundraising revenue has declined a whopping 42 per cent since 2004, which has been attributed to the decrease in the sale of annual memberships by 20 per cent and there has been a change in the amount of time and number of individuals willing and able to contribute to the fundraising and revenue generation," said Ohashi. "We're struggling to even fill the fundraising positions at this time." He pointed out the total expenditures in 2006 exceeded revenues by 12 per cent. Georgetown Seniors Centre president Clarence Gough also requested that budget committee increase the centre's administrative assistant hours from three days a week to five. If approved, it would cost $18,300, but the centre is willing to kick in a third of that cost ($6,000). As well, the centre would like some cash to hire students (600 hours/year) to help set up and take down chairs and tables for programs and events. The centre will also be kicking in $1,800 of the total $5,500 cost. Gough added the centre is approaching the high schools about the availability of volunteer hours for community service. Gough described the centre as an active place with 850-plus members with an average 150 visiting daily. He said the centre had 140 volunteers in 2006 contributing 21,000 hours of work (equivalent to 11 full-time staff).
Leaning on a cane at the podium, Ohashi said. "Age, health concerns and physical limitations, just like myself, are a major factor among the seniors. The younger members have little to no interest in volunteering." When questioned as to why that might be, centre president Clarence Gough paused and then suggested that, "a lot of them don't like to admit that they're seniors." Gough said this increasing reliance on the older seniors to perform physical labour and demanding support work is becoming an issue of risk management, facility security, health and safety and liability. He added the reliance on volunteers at both the Halton Hills senior centres is unheard of in other municipalities. He pointed to the recent Older Adult Centres Association's survey which suggests that an equivalent centre of Georgetown's size should have at least three administrative assistants. The Acton Seniors Centre has become a victim of its own success. Dave Dodgson, president of the Acton Seniors Centre told budget committee his centre is growing so rapidly that it needs the current part-time co-ordinator position to be expanded from two days to three days a week. The co-ordinator is responsible for the overall operations of the centre and works with several volunteer committees to provide programs and services. Membership at the centre has increased by 40 per cent since 2004 with daily attendance increasing by 23 per cent. Total membership is now about 335. The centre is willing to contribute $3,900 to the overall $15,400 additional cost of the co-ordinator services. "In order to maintain the positive influence in our community, we need more professional and closer support from our co-ordinator. The co-ordinator simply does not have enough hours in the week to do the things being asked of her," said Dodgson, "...and in our opinion this support is critical." He, too, pointed to the survey, which suggests a centre of Acton's size lacks this support and should have twice the amount of help that it has now. He said it's necessary as the centre reaches out to the community for fundraising help. "Because I believe quite strongly that we cannot continue to tap the seniors for operating and expansion costs," he said. Budget committee will discuss the requests during the discussion of the operating budget, likely on January 29.