Services Should Not Be Only Cuts

Older and disabled people in the Northern Panhandle who need help to maintain independent lifestyles are losing one resource. The Aging and Disability Resource Center at 105 Bridge Street in Wheeling will be closing, the state Bureau of Senior Services has announced.

Seven resource centers throughout the state will close because the bureau is reducing spending. Just three centers, in Fairmont, Petersburg and Princeton, will remain in operation.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and legislators had no choice but to reduce some spending to keep the state’s budget for the year beginning July 1 balanced. No doubt several state agencies will be reducing or eliminating some services in order to stay within their appropriations.

In the Bureau of Senior Services’ case, spending has to be cut by 7.5 percent, agency Commissioner Robert Roswell said this week.

He added that the decision to close resource centers was “based on productivity. Less than 25 percent of the clients are walk-ins. Less than 13,000 clients come into the centers.”

While it is true the information many senior citizens and disabled people need can be obtained via telephone or the Internet, 13,000 clients for the centers is a significant number.

It brings up a question legislators should be asking: Where state agencies are being required to reduce spending, how are they accomplishing it? By cuts in service? Laying off people at regional offices?

How many people at state agencies’ headquarters in Charleston will be affected by spending cuts?

Our bet is not many. Somehow, even when services to taxpayers are being reduced, there seems to be a need for each and every person on a bureaucracy’s central office payroll.

Interim committee meetings this summer would be a good opportunity for lawmakers to ask state agency heads about that.