The Missouri legislative session is over and all the budget decisions have been made and passed for the next fiscal year.
It is now in the hands of the governor should any further cuts need to be made. I must say that being a state representative or senator is a job I would never want. I am impressed with those courageous men and women who do those jobs. The members of the Legislature who put together the state budget have an extremely difficult job. Our state requires a balanced budget, for which I am grateful and I wish our federal budget had the same requirement. That requirement creates a huge challenge for our legislators especially when revenues are down as they have been for the last couple of years. In fact, they are expected to be even worse for the next several years. I would not want to be the one that must decide where to make hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cuts to state programs with each program telling you why they should not be the one that is cut. What a decision.
The 2011 budget for the Area Agencies on Aging across the State has been held at a $1.4 million general revenue cut to the homebound meal program. This amount was taken out the 2010 budget but was filled with stimulus dollars from the federal government. We will not receive stimulus dollars in 2011, so we will lose these funds. In 2010 we also had several “governor withholds,” which are notifications from the governor’s office that although we were given a budget for the year the money is not there, so the governor is cutting money out of our budget.
The most recent withhold took place in March. The Area Agencies on Aging offices across the state were notified that an additional withhold of $1.1million would be taken from the last three months of our budget period. For our agency, this amount totaled approximately $41,500. With the revenue losses that are expected in 2011, I believe we will see more funds withheld through out the upcoming year.
I must thank all of the staff of the agency for their hard work saving funds wherever possible. I know that we will continue to work to try to maintain our services even if more cuts come. While we have seen losses in state funds, we have also been blessed with many wonderful companies, businesses and individuals who have helped with fundraisers, partnership donations, memorial donations for family members that we have served, and some who just drop by and want to make a donation or buy some meal coupons for a senior. The next few years will be full of challenges, but with the support of so many great friends we will continue to work to meet the needs of our area seniors.
Carolyn McLaren is the executive director of the Area Agency on Aging.