Staff turnover at the Longmont Senior Center has seniors asking for more support from the city, but budgeting challenges mean that investment may be hard to find.
Seniors who rely on the city-funded center for activities and resources have expressed concern in emails and meetings about what they see as an understaffed senior center in a city with an aging population. Several spoke up during Tuesday’s city council meeting to express concerns.
“Please think outside the box and think of a solution to appropriately staff our senior center, which is not the same place it was 20 years ago,” said Susan Alling, who has been involved with the Senior Center for several years.
In the last month, two recreation programmers put in their notice at the senior center, which has raised concerns from seniors about the amount of work placed on staff’s shoulders. They have also raised issues with underinvestment into senior services by the city.
Assistant City Manager Joni Marsh told council that the senior center has requested 8.5 Full Time Employee positions since 2015, of which the city has funded 3.5.
“We know going into the next budget we have staff taking a look at all aspects of how we can do and provide the excellent services we’re accustomed to at the Senior Center,” she said. “But like all of us, we have a lot of needs from the budget.”
City Manager Harold Dominguez explained that Longmont’s general fund is currently about $110 million, and 75% of that goes toward staff expenses. He said the city is still dealing with the lasting impacts of the 2008 recession on staffing levels, which was not improved by the 2013 flood.
Longmont has a goal of paying current employees 102% the market rate, but has struggled to reach that goal — especially with the inflation of the last few years. Dominguez emphasized that Longmont hasn’t had the money to expand many services over the past decade, an issue that is not limited to the Senior Center.
“If we could fund everything, we would obviously bring those recommendations to you,” he said to council. “What we’re trying to do is really balance the needs we’re seeing across the organization.”
As Longmont approaches budget time for the upcoming year, Dominguez said the rising cost of bills that need to be paid and the likely need to increase pay for employees will be where much of any additional city revenue goes.
Coupled with 2023 as a reappraisal year and Proposition HH — which could further reduce city revenues if passed — there are a lot of conversations to be had about available revenue and how to balance the many needs of the city.