Mill Race Center in Columbus has developed a reputation for trend-setting programming for senior citizens and membership engagement. Now it’s showing an ability to flex a little financial muscle.
Board members and center leaders have reduced a $130,000 operating budget deficit to about $8,000 and have a plan to balance the budget within two years while also adding services.
That’s a sign of good, hands-on management.
Mill Race Center has made these significant strides after losing $19,800 in line-item funding from the city of Columbus that was cut after 2014 and seeing a reduction in county government funds from $5,000 in 2014 to $2,000 the following year.
Despite those setbacks, the center’s finances improved in 2015 because of:
•A 30 percent increase in donations and grants from the community compared to 2014.
•Adjustments to operating hours.
•Small changes in fees for classes and other offerings.
•A revamping of accounting procedures.
•Reviews of all contracts and partnerships.
Mill Race Center’s financial information was shared at its first-ever annual meeting, which also is an appreciated sign of public transparency.
The center, which serves those primarily age 50 and older, has a nearly $1.1 million budget that funds health and intellectual activities, social outings and other programs — of which more than 75 are free.
The free programs are a great benefit to the community, especially for residents who are elderly and more likely to have fixed incomes.
Also, the 50-and-older population represents 34 percent of the Bartholomew County population and is the fastest-growing group, according to the 2013 census. Not surprisingly, Mill Race Center membership grew by 212 people — an 11 percent increase — to 2,100 in 2015.
With a need to serve a growing 50-plus population with many free programs, it’s all the more important for the community’s senior center to operate in a financially sound manner. The center’s leaders certainly seem to grasp that and are being good stewards of the coffers and the community gem that the center is.