Councilmember Rod Dembowski: Senior Center Funding Update

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Rod and Dwight Stevens, 
past Chair of the Shoreline Veterans Association, 
at the Shoreline Veterans Memorial Plaza, 
outside of Shoreline City Hall.
Photo courtesy King County
From Councilmember Rod Dembowski

My 91 year-old Dad, Alfred, who often joins me at Shoreline veterans events, is a regular visitor to his local senior centers. 

He likes Renton for their live-music dancing, and Sea-Tac for their lunches. When he missed a couple of dances, senior center staff called me to see if he was ok. 

I know first-hand the value our senior centers provide in terms of social interaction, nutrition, health, and fun. I’ve enjoyed the hula dancing program at the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center. 

I know that its meal and other programs are essential to many seniors and their families in Shoreline and Lake Forest Park.

It’s why I’ve worked to secure significant new investments for senior centers and their programs in North King County and why I share the concerns of many, recently expressed, regarding a new county grant program where the Shoreline-LFP Senior Center, along with a dozen others in King County, was not awarded its full-funding request. 

Given the public interest in this decision, I wanted to share some background and details with you.

In 2005, my predecessor on the King County Council, Bob Ferguson, advanced for the first time a proposal for a King County Veterans and Human Services levy, to make critical investments in veterans and human services programs that had suffered cuts with the county’s declining general fund resulting from the 1% cap on property tax collections. The County had cut nearly all human service program funding. Voter-approved excess levies were, and remain today, the only currently viable means to fund such programs.

Voters adopted Bob’s proposal, and renewed it in 2011. In 2017, for the first time, the levy was expanded to include a variety of investments in programs and services to serve seniors countywide.

Voters passed it overwhelmingly. King County now had significant funds to invest in senior centers and other programs serving this rapidly growing segment of our population. With dedicated funds now available, since 2017, I have facilitated the granting of $175,000 in King County money to the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center to support its necessary and important work.

While significant, this funding stream was never designed to take the place of local government, fee-for-service, and other funding; it is additive to those traditional sources.

A new program coming out of the expanded VSHS levy was a proposal to transform senior centers into “Senior Hubs” which would offer an expanded range of co-located services for seniors. Senior centers from all over the county made proposals under this program, totaling 22 applications for 41 senior centers, asking for a total of $43.5 million in funding; more than double the $20.65 million in available funds. Fourteen Hub proposals, representing 28 senior centers were selected as Hubs. A total of eight Hub proposals, representing 13 senior centers were not selected as Hubs. Despite not prevailing on their full asks, these centers were granted $90,000 each to support their important work.

The King County Council does not, as a general rule, choose grant recipients. No single county councilmember picks winners or losers. Instead, programs and budgets are approved, and the Department of Community and Human Services solicits proposals and awards funds on a competitive basis. Not prevailing doesn’t mean that a program isn’t valuable or worthy; it means that there isn’t enough taxpayer money to meet 100% of the need.

For this Senior Hubs strategy, the proposal from Shoreline (which partnered with Ballard and West Seattle) was not selected as a Hub by the county’s grant review panel. I’m told that the Shoreline proposal asked for $360,000 over four years. Rather than award no funds, King County awarded $90,000. This was in addition to a grant of $75,000 last year, 100% of the Center’s request, and $10,000 I secured to expand senior fitness classes in the 2017-2018 budget.

Recent communications to Shoreline and Lake Forest Park residents have stated that the county did not grant the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center any funds. This is false. For the first time in decades, King County is investing significant sums in our senior centers, as well as senior programs like home repair, transportation, meals, and other services, more broadly. While I understand and share the disappointment in not being selected in the competitive process for Hub-level funding, these new county funds are on-the-whole, good news, not bad.

Related communication has also, in some cases, argued that Shoreline and Lake Forest Park have been left out of other King County levies. This is also false; I’ve made sure that we have not been left out. I have consistently advocated for, and secured, tens of millions of dollars of King County investments in children, youth, mobility, environmental, parks, trails, open space, clean water, housing, and human services programs and projects for North King County, including in Shoreline and Lake Forest Park. 

From Ronald Commons, to the Shoreline Veterans Memorial and the Historical Museum, to millions of dollars for Thornton, Boeing, Storm, Lyon and McAleer Creeks and open space preservation like Five Acre Wood, to programing at the Dale Turner YMCA, and the RADAR/Navigator program for our police departments, King County’s investments in our community are significant, and making a difference. I’m proud to have advocated for these investments, and I will continue to do so.

There is no doubt that the Shoreline‑LFP Senior Center needs more investment, and I will continue to work to secure more funding. 

I have already met with Theresa LaCroix, the Center’s Director, Joanne Donohue, Chief Operating Officer of Sound Generations, and Douglas Woods, a Center Board Member, as well as top county department leaders, to see what we can do to help secure additional resources. I’ve asked Director LaCroix to provide me information necessary to secure additional funding. I’m working with my colleagues on the Council who are also hearing from disappointed grant applicants in their districts. I’m optimistic that we will find a way to help and I pledge my continued best efforts to do so.

I welcome your comments and suggestions on this or any other topic. Feel free to write (rod.dembowski@kingcounty.gov) or call (206-477-1001) anytime.


Rod Dembowski represents North King County on the King County Council. He is serving as Chair of the Council for 2019, He also serves on the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee, Mobility and Environment Committee, Health Housing and Human Services Committee, Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, Regional Water Quality Committee, and Regional Policy Committee. Since joining the Council in 2013, he has never missed a vote, casting 5,107 consecutive votes as of September 17, 2019.


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