Commissioners Court forced to cut jobs as reduced funding and increased prices hit the three centers in Runnels Co. 

BALLINGER– After holding a series of town hall meetings to receive feedback from the community, and due to the reduced funding for the Senior Citizen Nutrition Program, the Runnels County Commissioners Court opted to implement several changes that will be affecting the senior citizen centers in Miles, Ballinger, and Winters.

This week, County Judge Barry Hilliard announced that a decision had been taken after evaluating several options to cut operation costs. Instead of running the Nutrition Program independently from three different centers, a single kitchen will be used to cook. The two other centers will be used for congregate meals and as distribution centers only.

“This wasn’t an easy decision,” said Hilliard. “We knew that we would have to reduce the staff.”

According to the new plan, the program would be running with three full-time positions, and three or four part-timers.

Previously the Commissioners Court evaluated several options, among those options was the possibility of privatization of the centers. All of these options were presented to the citizens of Miles, Winters and Ballinger during town hall meetings held last week in each one of these locations.

The centers are facing difficult times with the federal funding being reduced and the cost of the food increasing significantly.

Total operation costs of all three centers during the 2011-2012 fiscal year was roughly $340,000. Forty-four percent of this funding was provided by the federal government while the county was contributing with 22 percent.

In the 2012-2013 fiscal year, while the budgeted operation costs were $373,837.26 the federal government participated with 31 percent while the county had to come up with 43 percent. The cities and private donations contribute the remaining funds.

Additionally, in the last weeks the food banks in Abilene and San Angelo announced that they would have to stop providing reduced-price food for the senior citizen centers. According to Judge Hilliard the IRS ruled that the senior citizen centers were “double dipping” while receiving grants from the USDA and buying food at reduced prices.

Roughly, the senior citizen centers were buying 50 percent of their food in the Abilene and San Angelo food banks.

According to the new plan, drafted by Commissioner Ricky Strube, operating from one kitchen only would bring savings of almost $88,000.

Judge Hilliard said that the county will be buying the equipment needed, making trial runs and looking forward to be fully operational under the one kitchen program by October 1, 2013.