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September 5, 2006     Cape Gazette
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September 5, 2006

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II 1 CAPE GAZETTE - Tuesday, September 5 - Thursday, September 7, 2006.5 Rehoboth's senior center to cut back programs Rehoboth facility faces budget crunch By Bridin Reynolds Special to the Cape Gazette Rising electric rates are threat- ening budgets across the state, and the Cape Henlopen Senior Center is being hit hard. In response, the center's executive board is con- sidering reducing services and staff hours and has placed build- ing plans for a new center on hold. Executive Director Juanita Morch confirmed the actions Friday, Aug. 31, and with board President Everett Beach has issued a membership letter. . The board has approved the continued operation of the center for September. Officials will reconvene the third week of September to review the finances, officials said. The center would be available for use by the members but there would be a drastic reduction in services, Morch said. "I would be available on a part- time basis to oversee the operation and the paying of bills. The rest of the center staff would have to be laid off until such time as we have sufficient funding in place to reopen the center on a full-time staffed basis," said Morch. Located on Christian Street in downtown Rehoboth Beach, the center is struggling to survive the recent electricity rate hikes and other associated costs. "Absolutely everything is com- ing at a higher price," said Morch, who has overseen operations at the center for 28 years. With board approval, the center has been covering deficits by transferring funds from the new building fund account to the operat- ing account. New building funds have MORCH been required to operate and pay the salary of the center's bus driver since July 1, she said. "We have now reached a point where there are no longer any funds available," said Morch. Legislators representing the center - Sen. George H. Bunting, D-Bethany Beach, and Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach - met with the board Aug. 28 "We are going to address imme- diately more timely state pay- ments of money to the center," Schwartzkopf said. "Example - they are supposed to receive monthly DART payments for transportation, but they have not received July or August yet, so they have been using other funds f CALIFORNIA CLOSETS | It's more than just an organized space. ; It's an opportunity to simplify your life. CALL US TODAY FOR YOUR FREE CONSULTATION 302.227.7636 1 Showroom: 21584 Baltimore Avenue, Georgetown, DE 19947 to pay those expenses. We are looking into the delay in pay- ment." "We need to emphasize that the Cape H;nlopen Senior Center is serving one 9 f the fastest growing segments of our population, and it is in financial distress. It is time for the community at large to step up and help out," he said. Many senior center members are on fixed income and of modest means, so Bunting and Schwartz- kopf suggest expanding the fundraising efforts to the larger population - to people who do not use senior center services yet but who eventually might. "We need to put our heads together to come up with a good community fundraiser to help them throughl this financial setback," Schwartz- kopf said. Budget crunch Cape Henlopen Senior Center receives primary funding from the state Grant in Aid Program - $186,000 in fiscal year 2006, and about $3,000 from the county, plus membership dues, donations from civic organizations and fundraisers. The 2006 budget of $289,000 is not sufficient to absorb a 68 per- cent electric rate increase and other rising costs - such as insur- ance and service contracts for equipment - which have increased significantly No federal funds are provided and the center was recently turned down for additi0 State grants and a grant ,request to the Longwood Foundation. While the center is subsidized by DART for bus operations, owing to the increased price of gas, the center has ettceeded its budget. "We need an infusion of sub- stantial cash now to remain viable. Until that cash arrives, we have no choice but to curtail oper- ations as indicated," said Beach. Moreh is shouldering with dig- nity any fear for her own liveli- hood, concentrating her efforts on preserving the lives hundreds of local seniors share through the center's extensive programming. "For 40 years we have been serving the members of the Cape Henlopen Senior Center. It has been and still is our mission to keep members involved, healthy and active by adding years to life and life to years. For the past sev- eral years, we have had a difficult time meeting our budget, to where it has now become financial cri- sis," she said. Meetings are being scheduled with with Hal Dukes and Fran Grossi of Bayside Builders, and with architects McCool and McCool, to seek some resolution on the feasibility of the new build- ing project. The board is also seeking vol- unteers for a committee to analyze what it will cost to operate the new center and potential income generators once the new center is completed. "What we need is ideas and suggestions on how to raise addi- tional income to meet our present budget. However, that does not solve our present financial diffi- culties, "said Morch. "The senior center needs your help in order to continue providing quality pro- grams and services. You can help by making an annual tax- deductible contribution to assist." : With these rates, your money works as hard as you do. 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