Beginning next year, seniors will have to pay an annual membership fee in order to use the Waupaca Senior Center.
That annual fee will be $10 for city residents and $15 for non-city residents.
The higher fee for those who live outside of the city is being described as a matter of equity and fairness.
Ald. Paul Mayou said concerns have previously been raised at Common Council meetings that city taxpayers are subsidizing the seniors who do not live in the city but use the center.
He made the comment during a Nov. 30 meeting of the Waupaca Senior Center Advisory Board. Mayou attended the meeting in place of Mayor Brian Smith, who is a member of the board.
The membership fee structure was approved during that board meeting.
Carol Elvery is a member of the advisory board, and she said seniors are questioning why they are being targeted when anyone can walk in upstairs and use the recreation center.
There is no fee at the recreation center, except for organized sports, she said.
Teri Moe, the city’s senior citizen coordinator, said the new membership fees are expected to generate about $3,500 in revenue – an expectation included in the center’s 2012 approved budget.
That figure is based on about 300 seniors paying the fee.
She told the board that when former Parks and Recreation Director Jim Ash went to area towns, asking them to put money toward the cost of recreational programming for youth, she asked him to include programming for senior citizens.
Ash wanted to focus on the youth.
The towns of Dayton, Farmington and Waupaca entered into an agreement with the city that allows their youth to participate in city rec programs at the same cost as city youth.
Each town budgets money for this purpose.
Families living in area towns that are not part of the agreement thus pay higher fees for their children to participate in city rec programs.
Moe estimated that about half of the senior citizens who use the center live in the city, with the other half living in towns.
Dennis Sheehan, chairman of the senior center’s advisory board, said he knows the towns of Dayton, Farmington and Waupaca feel that they are already putting money into the city, although there is no distinction for seniors.
For seniors who live in Farmington, they will have the same fee senior center membership fee as city residents.
Farmington – as part of its 2012 town budget – agreed to pay the city the $5 difference in the membership fee for its senior citizens who want to become members of the center.
Moe said there will be no pro-rating of membership fees and that seniors will have to be members of the center in order to take any classes that are offered.
The membership fee will not have an effect on fees charged for classes or programs, meaning those fees will continue.
At one point in the Nov. 30 meeting, Sheehan asked, “Is it the Common Council’s intention to turn us into a profit center?”
Mayou replied, “It is a fairness issue. City residents are paying through their taxes.”
He said how the senior center makes up this difference is not being dictated by the council or the city. “It’s a matter of distributing the cost in a more fair way,” Mayou said.
Moe said budgets have been cut the last few years and that this will allow the senior center to maintain the level of services that seniors have come to expect.
Advisory Board Member Gene Antoniewicz said he talked to seniors, and they thought a modest membership fee of $10 for city residents and $15 for non-city residents was agreeable.
Sheehan expects there to be some resistance to the new fee structure. “I fully expect to lose some membership because of it,” he said.