The Belmont County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday bravely decided to change the way senior programs are delivered in Belmont County. After much thought, research and discussion with experts both locally and at the state and federal levels, the Commissioners decided to move the programs and services under our Agency, the Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services. I use the word "bravely" because the Commissioners know there will be some people who will try to stop this change and who malicious and with ill intent will unfortunately misrepresent the facts of this change. However, this newspaper provides news stories daily about how local government must reengineer itself and be more efficient to be able to continue serving our local residents. With limited tax dollars available, it has become evident that it cannot be business as usual. Senior programs are no different.
By making the change to BCDJFS, the Commissioners realize they have the ultimate responsibilitynot only to all taxpayers but also to the senior citizens of Belmont County! The Commissioners have the absolute responsibility to do whatever they can to keep our senior programs viable for decades to come. Maintaining the status quo will not allow them to serve the future needs of our seniors.
The Department of Job and Family Services currently assists people who need help in all age categories and demographic groups. We at the Department serve thousands of residents annually with a more than $160 million budget. Despite recent cuts in funding, we live "within our means" while still serving people in need. As a recognized state and federal funding agency, we have the ability to take local levy dollars, when applicable, and apply them to federal program subsidies to maximize local funding. This will allow the county to stretch our senior tax dollars as far as possible.
We see hundreds of residents weekly and match their personal and family needs with the necessary public or private programs to make their lives better. Moving senior services under our department will allow us to enhance services by better utilizing federal funding, improve service delivery and quality and most importantly, serve more senior citizens who don't currently get services.
Today, Belmont County has more than 12,000 residents age 60 or older. As we baby boomers age, the number of senior citizens in our county will only grow as will the demand for services and the demand for the necessary funding to offer these services. We will not be able to continue doing business as usual or the current senior programs will falter . As State of Ohio leaders have said, we locally need to rethink how we offer services during a time of less funding and more service demand. It is no different in Belmont Countyless funding and record numbers of people in need.
The decision this week will begin the process of proactively addressing these future program problems and better position our county to meet the demand while not turning to the taxpayers for more money. In the coming weeks, we will conduct town hall meetings throughout the county at the senior centers to discuss our exciting program plans. We will also be meeting with existing employees at Belmont Senior Services to discuss job opportunities.
In ending, I want to reassure all Belmont Countians that NO senior centers are closing, NO services will be stopped and despite what you may be told: "there are many great days ahead for the worthy senior citizens of Belmont County." Please watch the Times Leader for more information. Thank you.