Senior citizens who use nutrition and transportation services provided by the Chautauqua County Office for the Aging (OFA) are helping to pay for those services, Director Mac McCoy said Wednesday at a forum in the Senior Center.
The office has found that when told how much services cost, many people are willing to pay. This means public funding can be used to provide services for those who are less fortunate, he said.
Rosanne Pepiela, supervisor for the Chautauqua Area Rural Transit System in Dunkirk, said more people are taking the buses and are willing to pay for the service.
"In the Dunkirk-Fredonia area, 15 percent of the senior citizen passengers are wheelchair clients," she said. "Also, 22 percent of the population in the county is over 60 years old, but in the Dunkirk area it is 25-28 percent."
Several questions were asked about CARTS service, since transportation is a high priority for the Office for Aging.
"People have to get to doctors' appointments," McCoy said.
OFA has a volunteer transportation program, as well, said McCoy, and about 100 people per month are transported by volunteers, who receive 31 cents per mile.
"It's a unique program," McCoy added.
Ms. Pepiela said CARTS has added two buses for the Jamestown area. The system added 42 new clients in August and 142 in September, but she did not know how many were senior citizens.
CARTS has increased its ridership by 20 percent since the Jamestown Area Regional Transit System shut down Oct. 1. CARTS may be looking at a cap on the number of trips because of its own funding.
Another key issue for senior citizens is legal services, especially with changes in Medicaid and Medicare. Fallout from welfare reform will also have an impact on those two programs since the state would need to find money to make up the federal shortfall, McCoy said.
People who spoke were concerned about taxes, and McCoy suggested residents talk to public officials about a sliding scale of real estate tax relief depending on income.
"I'm $20 over (the limit) and have to pay the full amount," one resident said.
The 45-minute forum, which attracted about 25 people, was a required review of OFA's program for the federal fiscal year 1997. McCoy said funding seemed to be in place for many of the services.
Of the $2,721,924 budget, 45 percent, or $1,251,485, is for nutrition services. Transportation, outreach and information services cost $346,693 or 13 percent. In-home services total $399,975, or 15 percent of the budget.
A second forum will be held today in Jamestown.
McCoy said he is planning a session next spring at Chautauqua Institution to bring elected officials and senior citizens together. Constituents will then be able to speak directly to those who fund the programs, he said.