As Ponoka residents already face a slight increase in taxes and utilities the Rimoka Housing Foundation board is considering raising its requisition to its three municipalities, the towns of Ponoka and Rimbey, and Ponoka County.
Coun. John Jacobs, a member of the Rimoka board, mentioned the possibility after Coun. Rick Bonnett questioned him Dec. 11 on Rimoka’s happenings. Bonnett hopes to see a decrease in the requisition as there was supposed to be a one-time increase of $19,000 last year.
In an interview, chairman Paul McLauchlin said the Rimoka budget is still under discussion but there is a chance of a five-per-cent increase over last year. The operating budget is in order but he feels wages, inflation, and vacancies in Ponoka could affect the final requisition.
“It’s like taxation, right. Any time you get that situation when you have those increases in rates you gotta make sure that you take in every other step. You can’t just carte blanche start increasing people’s taxes but not look for savings elsewhere.”
He believes they are seeing rising costs and the requisition for 2012 is closer to a realistic number but lodge residents might also see an increase in their rents.
“Again, without the final numbers it’s hard to say what that would be but at the same time the will is to definitely decrease or have the least amount of impairment to the residents as possible,” he explained.
Vacancies at Ponoka’s Golden Leisure Lodge generally see a fluctuation but recently had 16 to 18 rooms vacant for longer than usual. With vacancies there comes a drop in revenue but operating costs have not changed and staffing does not either, said McLauchlin. The board has given the proposed budget back to the Bethany Group, which manages Rimoka’s needs, to consider for another time.
The board has discussed the long-term benefits of advertising as well as trying to fix utility costs, which are currently on a variable rate.
Bethany Group CEO Denis Beesley said it is not unusual to have lodge vacancies but “most recently they seem to have been more permanent and that’s not unusual with what is happening in the province.”
He feels there are more options available to seniors such as private buildings, which has added more capacity in some communities. “We’re still looking at how can we fill the lodge rooms because the lodge program still delivers great package services to seniors; three meals a day, people being there in the night and activities. All of those services are more targeted at independent people but also for people who have limited incomes.”
There have been changes to the market as well, lodges were built for individuals but Beesley has seen couples considering a move to a lodge. People also have more resources available to them and Beesley feels it has also affected vacancy rates.
He believes the average requisition in the province is approximately $3,900 per room per year and Beesley feels Rimoka’s requisition is approximately $2,000 to $2,500. Bethany Group’s job is to work with the board to keep costs low but still maintain services for lodge residents, all of which affects the requisition amount.
“So just for instance, if you had 10 vacancies in a lodge on average, that would be a loss of revenue of about $12,000 a month …Times 12 that’s $144,000,” explained Beesley. “And do you know what, you have 10 vacancies, your costs don’t decrease.”
Staffing and services stay the same considering provincial legislation requires a certain level of service to its residents, he said. The lodge program started in the ‘50s and was meant to provide a certain level of service to residents, which is covered under the Alberta Housing Act.
Meals, snacks, linen laundry service, activities, 24-hour on-site staffing and for those who do not have their own furniture, some must be provided such as a bed and cupboards, these and maintenance must be provided by the lodges. “Also the protection is that a senior must be left with at least — it doesn’t seem like a lot of money — but they must be left with at least $265 in disposable income after they paid their rent.”
He feels despite small rooms and basic accommodations, the lodge program is generally one that has done fairly well. “But it is in need of provincially looking at these programs.”
Beesley believes seniors are now looking for a choice and a long-term strategy is needed to accommodate cultural changes. He used the new proposed Rimbey lodge as an example; funding is waiting for approval from the government, which has taken some time as it is considering a new funding model.
“Any new opportunity to build you’ve got to look at what the future is for 20 or 30 years,” he explained.
Beesley believes rates at Rimoka lodges are approximately $1,240 per month. The budget has not yet been approved and board members will meet Jan. 16 to discuss the budget and requisition.