Budget cuts unappetizing, senior center staffers tell Kent City Council

Seven members of the Kent Senior Activity Center let a City Council committee know Tuesday that they oppose the proposed cuts to the lunch subsidy program at the facility.

Seven members of the Kent Senior Activity Center let a City Council committee know Tuesday that they oppose the proposed cuts to the lunch subsidy program at the facility.

The estimated $30,000 annual subsidy is part of $7 million in spending cuts for the rest of this year recommended April 6 to the Council by Mayor Suzette Cooke because of declining revenues.

“The bottom line is if there are any cuts to the senior center subsidy lunch program, at least wait until the end of the year so we can work to get support,” said Ken Carlson, who serves as a lunch cashier at the senior center, during public testimony at the Council’s Operations Committee. “It is an important program for a lot of senior citizens.”

No other residents showed up to testify about any other proposed cuts.

Cooke’s plan cuts more than $5 million from the city’s general fund budget by moving 29 employees to cover jobs in the Panther Lake annexation area starting July 1 when 24,000 residents join the city; cutting or reduced hours of seven employees and reduction of services in every department.

Another $2.2 million in proposed savings would include $600,000 from keeping vacant positions open; $600,000 to be taken from an unused $1 million flood-fight fund; and $475,000 in pre-annexation costs that would be billed to the annexation budget.

Other proposed budget adjustments include reducing the number of city Spotlight Series performances so that the series is self-supporting; move some police officers from special units to patrol; switch some firefighters from special units to fire suppression; reduce staff in developmental services because of a continual decline in commercial development; and reduce support to the Kent Meridian pool.

The city isn’t losing money, but the mayor and Council set a 2010 budget goal to keep a reserve fund at $6.3 million or 8.1 percent of the $80.3 million general fund budget adopted by the Council in December.

The reserve fund came up $4.3 million short of the goal of $6.3 million at the end of 2009, mainly because of revenue drops in the sales tax and utility tax. The reserve-fund total for the end of 2009 came in at $2 million or 2.6 percent of the general fund budget.

The goal of the cuts is to get the reserve fund back to 8.1 percent of the general fund budget by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the senior center lunch program remains in operation at 600 E. Smith St.

“Our goal is to keep the lunch program,” said Jeff Watling, city director of parks, recreation and community services.

Watling said the city subsidizes the lunch program out of the general fund because not enough people buy the lunch.

Consolidated Food Management, based on Mercer Island, contracts with the city to serve lunch Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The cost for lunch is $6. The deli is open to anyone, not only senior citizens. The lunch includes choices of entrees, sandwiches, soups and salads as well as a beverage and dessert.

The city’s contract guarantees Consolidated Food Management a minimum of 80 lunches per day. Any number fewer than that, the city pays for.

“The majority of days we don’t hit the minimum,” Watling said. “We could renegotiate with the vendor, but it would be difficult for them to go lower than an 80 minimum. It’s a challenge on us to solve.”

Lea Bishop, senior-center facility manager, told the committee that 88 lunches were served Tuesday, but the average has been 65 per day over the last couple of months.

“If we cut the subsidy, the vendor will go away,” Bishop said. “Consolidated Food Management made about $800 last year and $47 the year before. They can’t reduce the 80-meal minimum. It cost them $5.41 per meal with one cook and one part-time helper.”

Panera Bread started to serve lunch each Wednesday last fall at the center. But Bishop said Panera might drop out of the program because it’s too costly for them.

After hearing from Orval Dealy, another senior center member, that a sign to promote the lunch could not be posted outside the facility because of city codes, Council members said they would look into changing the code to allow the sign.

“We used to have a banner to tell the public about the lunch,” Dealy said. “We need to let people know it’s available.”

The Council plans to continue to discuss the budget-cut recommendations by Cooke at a workshop at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. The Council has yet to determine when it might make any changes to the budget cuts or possibly come up with additional revenue measures.

Cooke recommended raising about $100,000 in new revenue by doubling the parking violations to $40 from $20 for people who park beyond the 2-hour limits in restricted areas downtown and by adding a 5 percent admissions tax to green fees at the city-owned Riverbend Golf Course.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

SeaTac man sentenced to life in 2021 Des Moines triple murder

Jury convicted Joshua Puloka in May of shootings outside of sports bar

Tacoma woman, 18, faces vehicular assault charge after Kent crash

Reportedly had been drinking; female passenger, 18, in her vehicle suffers injuries

Cristopher Ruvalcaba (Court documents.)
Two Auburn men sentenced in murder of Kent man at Southcenter Mall

Chris Wesolowicz was shot in a carjacking incident on Nov. 18, 2022.

Asylum seekers again ask for former Kent Econo Lodge to be reopened

Several testify at Kent City Council meeting; but King County has no plans to open hotel

Volunteers enjoy the sunshine at Renton’s 2024 Juneteenth Celebration. The weather will be sunny this weekend as summer officially starts. Photo by Bailey Jo Josie/Sound Publishing
Summer kicks off with 80-degree weekend weather

Puget Sound region weather forecast for June 21-23.

Most Kent crime numbers declining so far in 2024 compared to 2023

Homicides, robberies, vehicle thefts, residential burglaries fewer in first 5 months

Kent Police chief says they have ‘strong leads’ in student’s fatal shooting

Rafael Padilla ‘cautiously optimistic’ detectives will solve who shot Kent-Meridian High student

Latter-day Saints make large food donation to Kent, Renton groups

Semi delivers shipment for Kent Food Bank, John Volken Academy and two local churches

Police arrest Kentridge High student who reportedly had gun on campus | Update

17-year-old boy under investigation for unlawful possession of a firearm and fourth-degree assault

Juneteenth flag goes up at Kent City Hall

Mayor Dana Ralph and Gwen Allen-Carston raise the flag for June 19

State Patrol honors 7 Kent Police Department members in trooper shooting

Officers helped save the life of Trooper Seaburg in February incident; detectives built case

Police arrest Kent boy, 16, for vehicular assault after 3-car collision

Teen and three others injured, two critically; boy reportedly stole vehicle prior to June 17 crash on East Hill