The Socorro County Board of County Commissioners on a 3-2 vote at a special meeting decided to extend an offer of six months of funding to run the county’s three senior centers in Socorro, Magdalena and Veguita.
The funding, from New Mexico North Central Aging and Long Term Services, would require Socorro County to put up its share of the costs.
“The only thing is that the county has been subsidizing this state program that is not mandated to the tune of about $400,000 a year, so the last three years have cost $1.2 million,” County Manager Michael Hawkes said. He said it has become difficult to continue providing the money without harming other county departments.
“We’re finding it harder and harder to fund a non-mandated service that the state should be funding,” he said.
Hawkes said the special meeting was to lengthen the funding by six months to give the state that much time to see what, if anything, it can provide and “whether there are mechanisms, methodologies they deem can be deployed in order to provide a seamless transition, if that is the case.”
Hawkes said that while county senior centers are not mandated programs, other services are.
“We are mandated to provide a venue for the county courthouse, the DA’s office, the elected offices, the sheriff’s department, the detention center and the road department,” he said. “Those are the type of mandated programs that we have to have. The senior center is a state program, which is why we issue an RFP (request for proposals) to see who’s interested in running it.”
He said the county for the last 10 years has been absorbing costs on the average of over $300,000 a year.
“And it’s anticipated this year to be higher than that, depending on the consumer price index,” Hawkes said. “It could be $450,000.
“So, then you look at all the other mandated programs we’re supposed to run and try to stay competitive,” he said. “What are you going to do? When people need roads paved or graded, or they need the sheriff’s department to respond, and we don’t have the budget because we’re spending more and more funds on a non-mandated program, decisions have to be made.”
Hawkes said Socorro County’s predicament is not an anomaly.
“Every county subsidizes the program. Valencia County is looking at a half-million. I was told Rio Arriba County is looking at about a million,” he said. “But those counties have a lot more revenue sources than Socorro County does. So sometimes they can absorb it, and even then — to the tune of a half-million or a million — on a program the state is supposed to be running, it’s kind of tough.”