Dear Mayor Lewis and Council Members,
I want to bring something to your attention, the details of which you may not be aware. You have many issues on your plate right now, and I know that you work hard to deal with all of them thoughtfully.
As a member of the Gilbert Community Services Citizens Budget Committee, I was overwhelmed with information. However, I recall that the Gilbert Community Center costs the taxpayers in “Net Support” $264,120 per year. Of all the rec centers, this one had the worst cost recovery. For example, Freestone’s cost recovery was 87%, compared to Gilbert Community Center at 26%. These numbers may be approximate.
When I inquired about finding ways to increase cost recovery, our committee was informed by Jim Norman that the Gilbert Center is primarily used by seniors. Pat Krueger added that, “ 95% of the seniors attending the Center are qualified to receive assistance through CSA (Community Services of Arizona).”
I discovered that there are other taxpayer supports for the seniors attending the Gilbert Center. Under the category of “Outside Agencies” the Senior Center has received $33,200 from the Town, per the handout from George Pettit.
Also, I reviewed a contract that the Town awarded to CSA in June 2009 in the amount of $138,629. It states that the Agency (CSA) will provide: “Congregate and Home Delivered meals to disabled persons and seniors over the age of 60 who are residents of Gilbert. Nutritionally balanced and dietician approved meals are delivered by volunteers and/or staff. Senior Center activities may include exercise, educational classes, social activities and other activities as arranged by the Agency.” (In our Budget subcommittee meeting, Superintendent Giles advised that there is no charge for the daily meal, but a donation is recommended.)
Regarding some of the activities provided by CSA to the seniors at the Center, the last issue of LEISURE PURSUITS describes some of these. Free transportation is provided to attend. I don’t know if that is an additional cost to the taxpayers.
1) Barleens AZ Opry Dinner Theater
2) Lone Butte Casino
3) Health Fair with door prizes
4) Hale Centre Theatre “Guys and Dolls”
5) Mazatzal Casino
6) Phx Suns Game
7) Lone Butte Casino
8) Hale Centre Theater
This is a total of $435,949 in taxpayer money to support the seniors in our community.
Also, I am concerned about that statement, “95% of the seniors attending the Center are qualified to receive assistance through CSA.” The contract states “disabled persons and seniors over the age of 60.”
I have heard anecdotally from Staff the justification for these programs as “the only hot meal these folks receive,” and the activities “keep them from hospice.”
It is very difficult for me to understand how it is that 60-year olds are incapable of fixing their own meals or providing their own entertainment. What bothers me the most, however, is that people who are able-bodied are lumped together with “disabled” and so they are all “qualified for assistance.”
If you strip away the able-bodied from those who are truly disabled and in need (because there are many disabled people who are independent and reject assistance), I believe the numbers in true need are pretty small. I readily acknowledge the duty incumbent on us all as human beings and citizens, to provide for those who are truly disabled and in need. These are the people that our community, not our government, should be helping and do in fact, help. I know of a group of seniors who do nothing but help those who are truly in need. Churches help people who are truly in need. Family helps. Friends and neighbors help. The entity of the last resort, when all else is exhausted, is government.