Elderbridge: Webster Co. owes us cash

The Elderbridge Agency on Aging claims that Webster County owes it money – an assertion the county denied Tuesday.

In a letter from Jonathan Kramer, the agency’s attorney, Elderbridge claims Webster County has not fulfilled $67,287.93 in funding requests from previous years.

The agency is requesting that amount – in addition to $23,190.30 for fiscal year 2014 – be paid.

“I understand that you are not in a position to fully pay the total request of $90,478.13 in this year,” Kramer stated in the letter sent to the board on Feb. 20. “Because Elderbridge is a good partner and does not want to reduce services for Webster County, it is willing to accept $30,000 as its allocation for fiscal year 2014 without reducing services, so long as the board commits to funding similar or greater amounts in the future.”

However, Webster County officials say they are not obligated to provide funding to organizations such as Elderbridge from one year to the next.

Prior to fiscal year 2008, Webster County provided matching funds to Elderbridge, but cut funding to the agency that year due to budget restraints. The board has not since reinstated any funding, Board Chairman Bob Singer said.

“It’s a simple situation,” Singer said. “When Elderbridge provides the services, they want a match of up to 15 percent that we would pay. Because of budget restraints in 2008 we didn’t provide that match. We had to tell them they might not be able to provide some of the services without the funds. We made the decision to not provide the match and if they had to withdraw services, it was their decision.”

Supervisor Keith Dencklau said Elderbridge was not the only agency affected by the cuts made five years ago.

“When we had to cut those funds for those services, we had to cut everyone; D/SAOC, UDMO, they were all affected,” said Dencklau. “Now Elderbridge is not only encouraging us to pay the match but also wants back all of those other years. It is not contractual that we have to do anything for them. A few years ago when times were good we helped them out.”

On Jan. 8, Mick Tagesen, Elderbridge executive director, requested that Webster County provide 5 percent of the $493,774.13 in services the agency will provide to the county for the 2014 budget year.

Tagesen reiterated the request Tuesday.

Tagesen said the board could pay an additional $6,000 per year for 10 years to cover the remaining balance of the $90,478.13 if the 2104 funding request is granted.

Tagesen said the request is made in part to help offset more than $124,000 in expected cuts to Elderbridge’s state funding this year.

Tagesen said as a nonprofit organization, Elderbridge is required by federal government to ask for matching funds.

“It’s federal law that we get matching funds,” he said. “We’re not the only agency faced with this, but we are asking for fiscal responsibility from our counties. We are just looking to get Webster County to pay their fair share.”

According to Tagesen, Webster County is the only county does not provide funds within Elderbridge’s 20-county service area.

According to Tagesen, the agency contacted its attorney to bring attention to the importance of the funding issue – not to begin any legal action.

“It wasn’t meant in a legal way,” said Tagesen. “It was to address our concerns. We’d already sent our director, sent a board member, but we didn’t feel they heard us. Our board saw this as a chance to send a new ear. We want our attorney to have an opportunity to meet with the board to get a feel for what the needs are.”