Pocahontas Co. Senior Services Hurt by Budget Cuts & Minimum Wage Law
At their June 7th Meeting, The Pocahontas County Commissioners agreed to contribute $5000 to the County Senior Citizen Program to help them replace failing food freezers at the Green Bank Senior Building. These freezers allow them to buy food in bulk which saves money. John Simmons, the County Director of Senior Programs also took this opportunity to let the Commissioners- and the public- know just how bad a financial hit the Senior Programs have taken in the past 3 years.
John said they are now receiving less money in State aid than they did in 2008. Statewide, the Senior Programs are getting about 3.8 million dollars less in State aid then they were getting 3 years ago. John explains what this means for Pocahontas County.
“When you divide that cut out (to) all 55 counties, that’s Seventy Thousand, eighty-four dollars and ninety-six cents per county less then what we had 3 years ago” said Simmons. “Compared to other counties, usually on a cut like that we suffer more than the bigger counties, because they allow them more.”
The estimated $78,084.96 cut to the County in State Aid for Senior Citizens is only part of the problem, John explains the rest of the problem.
“The minimum wage increase that the Governor signed into law –actually there was a 2 year step on that thing” said Simmons. “On January 1, 2015, the minimum wage went to $8.00 and on January 1, 2016 it went to $8.75 (per hour). Before the first round when it went up to $8.00, most of the workers were making $7.80. That’s the standard rate at that time, so we only had to go up 20 cents and we were able to cover that all right, but then when it jumped to $8.75 -35,675 more dollars per year in payroll and no appropriation to cover it with. It’s just a mandate.
John went on to explain that to deal with this combined almost one hundred and six thousand dollar a year decrease in revenue without cutting services to seniors, he recently had to furlough all 8 full time employees, including him- one day without pay every two weeks, which saves about $2000.00 per pay. Despite this, John insists they have no intention of closing down, despite the rumors out there saying they will close.
In other actions, after a lengthy Executive Session discussion, the Commissioners approved the emergency hiring of a trained and certified new Law Enforcement Deputy, Danny Sayre at $30,000 per year.
They heard from JAK Kincaid or “Reaching the Summit” who sought ideas for community service projects for his volunteers for next summer. He was steered to the State Parks and the boy Scout Camp.
Christopher Negley, Attorney for the County Public Service District, asked the Commissioners to allow the PSD to pursue a petition to the WV Public Service Commission to expand the local PSD’s water boundaries to include Snowshoe and Silver Creek where they already expanded their sewer boundary. The Commissioners agreed to allow that.
They authorized Mike O’Brien to pursue a mutual aid agreement with Bath County, Virginia.
They handled some year end and routine budget resolutions and revisions, appointed Ed Riley to the County Solid Waste Authority for a 4 year term, and appointed Oreana “Rene” White and Barbara B. Shaw to the Dramas, Fairs and Festivals Board for 3 year terms.
The Commissioners said they are looking for anyone interested in filling a vacancy on the Public Service District to submit their name to the Commission for consideration before July 5th.
In his report to, Bob Martin, Commission Counsel discussed a possible Commission Meeting Agenda change whereby person’s wanting to put things on the agenda must submit them by Wednesday prior to the meeting. He also discussed legislative changes to the Hotel/Motel Tax which would require hotels and motels to collect the tax on boarders even if they stay more than 30 days but would exempt boarding houses and condominiums which rent to the same customer for 30 days or more.
The meeting ended with payment of invoices.