AARP members, WSU to weigh in on Sedgwick County budget

By Joe Stumpe

Sedgwick County commissioners likely will hear from more folks this year calling for additional funding of senior-related services.

A group made up of AARP members has been meeting for the past six months to learn more about Meals on Wheels, senior centers, transportation and other services funded by the county.

Their conclusion: Those programs need more money, and seniors need a bigger say in how county funds are spent.

“We’re going to try to get a meeting with the county commissioners to explain why we need that,” said Gerald Schmidt, one of the group’s organizers. “We decided if you don’t stand up and speak for yourself, you’re not going to get anything.”

Meanwhile, County Manager Tom Stolz said last month that the county has hired the Public Policy and Management Center at Wichita State University to analyze the county’s approach to aging-related programs.

Stolz said the study will answer questions such as “How is our funding comparable to other jurisdictions? Are we funding enough? And then, are we funding the right amounts for each service provided —for nutrition, senior centers, health services and other components?”

He hopes to have the analysis by May 1.

AARP members have been meeting at Botanica at 10 a.m. on the third Monday of each month. Anybody is welcome.

The group was spurred by controversy over the county’s 2020 budget. The budget for senior-related services totaled just over $11 million — a .3 percent increase over the previous year — compared to a 4 percent jump in the overall budget.

Schmidt said spending on aging-related programs should not be shrinking compared to inflation at a time when the percentage of older residents is growing. AARP members would also like to see the county’s Advisory Council on Aging and Physical Disabilities have more influence. “Maybe as an advisory board they can stand up for older people a little more,” Schmidt said.

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