Counties facing challenges meeting needs of seniors

| April 16, 2015

NC OutlineEditorial by Winston-Salem Journal, April 14, 2015.

Senior citizens, a bedrock of our country, deserve our respect and support. But local governments nationwide are facing a big challenge: meeting, with limited money, the needs of this growing population of senior taxpayers.

A situation in Davie County underscores the problem. Davie must balance meeting the needs of seniors with a full plate of other items, most notably, the costs of building a new high school. Those issues have come to the fore as Davie commissioners consider $800,000 that supporters want for expansion of the county’s popular but crowded Senior Center in Mocksville.

Last June, money for the center was inserted into the 2014-15 budget late in the process, with little discussion. After Mike Ruffin took over as interim county manager in July, he took a close look at spending to make sure the county was getting the best use of its money.

He took most of the $800,000 allocation out of a proposed, $65-million capital investment plan, the Journal’s Lisa O’Donnell reported, leaving just $150,000 for a new, canopied entrance to the Senior Center. Before committing the full amount to the expansion, he wants $25,000 in the county’s next budget for a study of the needs of senior citizens across the county.

But at a public hearing at the commissioners’ meeting last week, Billy Shelton, who often uses the Senior Center, told commissioners that “I support the county in a lot of different ways and rarely do I ask for anything back. And that is why I feel uncomfortable asking for anything. I urge the county commissioners to reconsider this $800,000 expansion. In my opinion, it’s the best money the county can spend.”

That’s powerful testimony. People 60 years or older made up 23 percent of Davie’s population in 2010, according to a profile of the county by the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, O’Donnell reported. And many of those adults like to exercise, eat and socialize at the Senior Center.

But Ruffin is right in wanting to make sure money from the capital improvement plan is fairly spent on efforts for seniors throughout Davie County. The study, if it’s done right, should pinpoint how best to do that. It should be done as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, Ruffin and the commissioners who will have the final say should strongly consider increasing the money going to the Senior Center. It may well be that the money from that $800,000 would best be spread out on senior needs throughout the county, but some amount more to the Senior Center for other improvements, in addition to the $150,000 for the entrance, may well be warranted.

One thing is for sure: As much as the county needs that new high school and other improvements, it must also meet the needs of its seniors. In Davie, and across the nation, we must do all we can for our seniors.

Category: NC SPIN Perspectives - Opinions from NC Leaders & Organizations

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