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Senior Center Tightens Its Belt, Readies for Town Hall Employees

Senior Center copes with cuts to its operating budget as town hall employees will be setting up shop at the Senior Center when the Town Hall renovation begins.

Even though , the director of the , describes this year’s budget as “bare bones,” she doesn’t believe much will change at the facility.

“We live within our means, and we’ve been frugal over the years, so I think we’re used to it,” she said.

The current operating budget for the Senior Center (not including salaries) is $72,000. Of that, $69,000 is allotted for building maintenance, including a contract for the building’s HVAC.

“We don’t even have $3,000 budget for supplies,” said Brabant.

Despite the center’s ability to cope with limited funds, Brabant said that the center will have to “come up with new ways to fund the programs.”

The center has raised money in the past through sales in its Upscale Boutique Consignment Shoppe and the Snooti Patooti Gift Boutique located in the Senior Center. Proceeds from sales go into a revolving account that Brabant said “helps defray” the cost of the building's programs and activities.

 “We … established (them) a few years ago because things were getting pretty rough,” she said of the opening of the gift and thrift shops.

The center has also eked out an existence by relying on a $31,000 COA Formula Grant through the state, at least half of which funds activities at the facility. Another thing that keeps costs down is that much of the Senior Center’s operations are done by volunteers. Brabant is the only paid administrator of the facility and a 32 hour-a-week custodian is the only other employee.

“All the people that work in other capacities here, such as supervising, programs, answering the telephone and manning the consignment shop and gift shop, those are all volunteers,” said Brabant. Brabant also said that the seniors who attend and the Friends of the Elderly group are “very supportive” financially.

Brabant said that an increase to fees for activities and exercise is a last resort if can’t supplement budget deficits otherwise.  

“Exercise is important for everybody, so I try to maintain the same fees for exercise,” she said.

If anything, Brabant said she might have to charge more for day trips sponsored by the Senior Center. In the past the center subsidized the cost of the excursions, but Brabant said that this just isn’t something they can do anymore.

As for other budget concerns, Brabant doesn’t think they will have much of an effect on the goals and objective she submitted in the fall because the Senior Center is often able fulfill these needs through avenues other than town funding.

One project, landscape reviving and upkeep, has been attended to by Eagle Scout projects in the past and possibly the Tewksbury Garden Club in the future.

“Again, there’s volunteers involved there,” said Brabant.

Other things Brabant is looking into include a tax rebate program for seniors as well as on-site cooking capabilities at the Senior Center. Because these endeavors are research-based, Brabant said they will cost very little.

Brabant hopes that the town’s financial situation will improve, because for her facility's budget, “there’s no wiggle room.”

One thing that may help in the near future is a roommate; when the , offices will be moved to the Senior Center.

“I don’t see the next year or so being too bad because we’ll have other people here,” said Brabant.

Brabant has already offered to give up her office for the town manager to use. She said that the clerk’s office will be stationed in the current library but that most of the offices will be contained in one location.

As for activities at the Senior Center? Life will continue as normal.

“It is a senior center first … and foremost,” she said. “So when we want to play the piano, or we want to have an afternoon dance with a DJ and the music blaring, they have to put up with it.”

For now, Brabant can empathize with the town hall employees who will be uprooted during rehabilitation of their offices. Before the Senior Center had its permanent home on Chandler Street, they had to meet at various locations such as the Elks Lodge, the Housing Authority building, and .

“We were spread all around town,” she said of the Senior Center before the new building. Town employees should have nothing to complain about concerning their temporary home.

 “It’s modern and it’s bright, and in hard times like this, coming to a place like this brightens your life up,” Brabant said of the center.

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