Just $4,000 in targeted reductions from a $4 million-plus budget was proposed to county commissioners Monday. The result is about 350 fewer meals will be provided to seniors.
Two vacant positions — a nurse and part-time attorney — are scheduled for elimination as well.
The department has had its share of cuts, however, shrinking to 27 employees from 43 just a few years ago.
Though county funding appears in tact at this time, state and federal funding support is likely to decrease, perhaps jeopardizing certain services.
For example, senior services director Grady Tarbutton told the Board of County Commissioners he expects declines in Medicaid matching funds and the U.S. Older Americans Act funds, plus an end to foreclosure mitigation grants.
Moreover, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed state budget would push down services and transfer costs to the county level, increasing deficits countywide by as much as $25 million.
“We hope to talk to the government … about leveling the playing field,” Commissioner Bonnie Weber said about her hope that lawmakers in Carson City would not add to the county’s current $33.5 million budget shortfall.
Tarbutton said he wonders about whether a point is fast approaching when senior services will no longer be cost-effective to provide. Talk of consolidating departments and services countywide is gaining momentum as these considerations flourish.
Though the impact of the state budget on Washoe County services is as yet unknown, Tarbutton believes “they’re going to be significant.”
Concerns about cuts to senior services are compounded by the fact that America’s elderly population is growing at a pronounced rate.
According to a 2009 University of Nevada, Reno study, more than 10,000 people are turning 65 years old every day in the United States.
In Washoe County, 20 percent of people in this age demographic live alone, 37 percent have cognitive or physical limitations and 50 percent have an annual income of less than $20,000.
Furthermore, those 85 years of age and older are the fastest growing segment of the local population and the most at risk, the study reports.
Seniors, therefore, are more vulnerable than any other group to budget cuts, Tarbutton said.
Reporter’s note: Read about proposed cuts to the Washoe County Health District in Thursday’s edition of the Sparks Tribune.