Miami Lakes

Miami Lakes to restart senior programs after funding cut by Gov. Rick Scott

After Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed spending more state money on senior programs in Miami Lakes, the town council has found a temporary way to restart the adult classes.

In a special meeting held Monday, the Miami Lakes council unanimously passed a motion to restart classes as soon as possible, while looking for outside donations to keep them going until the end of the month.

In addition, the council agreed to seek a long-term solution to fund the classes.

“I am delighted that we canceled the cancellation and that we’re going to restart the classes again, effective immediately,” Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi said following the meeting. “Tallahassee screwed it up, but we got our senior classes up and running again.”

Last week, Pizzi called for an emergency meeting in response to Scott’s decision to eliminate state funding for senior programs in Miami Lakes.

Pizzi said the town estimates Miami-Dade Public Schools spent about $36,000 in state money last year on the town's senior programs.

At Monday’s meeting, Pizzi announced he personally will donate $2,500 to keep the classes going through the month, in the event that an outside donor cannot be found.

“I will personally guarantee to donate the $2,500 through July if we can’t find any other source because I want the classes to start tomorrow,” Pizzi said. “I want the classes to start again tomorrow and then let us worry about the longer-term solution.”

Miami Lakes has been running senior activities for about a decade through a partnership with a Hialeah program.

In the spring, some 188 people enrolled in programs which include tai chi, sewing and computer classes.

Mario Junco, 65, of Miami Lakes has taken computer classes for the past year and says he’s learned a lot from them.

“Hopefully things will work out with the programs and they will at least be held for the whole summer,” Junco said following the meeting. “These programs very vital for seniors and for everyone in general.”

During the meeting, others on the council supported the measure to keep the senior programs going.

“What’s funny is that this program, which isn’t just for seniors but also for adults with disabilities, somehow always ends up being on the chopping block,” Councilman Tony Lama said at the meeting. “I think it’s important for the community to see that we’re all very-well behind this program it’s important not just for your physical health but for your mental health.”

Lama said he believes there is a way for the town to be creative and look for alternative sources to fund senior classes.

“Perhaps we may have different opinions on how this gets funded but at the end of the day we want to do what’s right for our senior citizens and adults with disabilities in the town,” Lama said.

The town is currently working with the school board and other resources to keep the programs going long-term.

According to Pizzi, Scott's cuts haven't just impacted Miami Lakes' senior programs. The governor also cut about $1 million in town drainage and infrastructure grants, Pizzi said.