Group says costs up, funds down
The head of East Baton Rouge’s Council on Aging said she will ask the Metro Council for the extra $200,000 the agency requested but was denied by Mayor-President Kip Holden in his proposed 2013 budget.
The budget as proposed by the mayor allocates $876,300 to the Council on Aging, the same amount it received in 2012.
Council on Aging Executive Director Tasha Clark-Amar said the extra money the agency requested is desperately needed because of the sharp increase in the number of seniors being fed at senior centers throughout the parish. In addition, she said, the Jindal administration cut $140,000 in the state’s construction budget that would have helped the agency modernize its kitchen.
The COA has a contract with the state Office of Elderly Affairs to provide 70,000 hot meals to seniors at senior centers located in the parish, Clark-Amar said. In order to reduce costs and improve quality, the COA upgraded its kitchen and began preparing the meals in-house, she said.
The in-house meals are of higher quality than last year, meaning more seniors are showing up to eat, Clark-Amar said.
The COA will serve 70,000 meals before the end of January, just seven months into the fiscal year, Clark-Amar said.
“It’s putting me in a crisis,” she said.
The 70,000 hot meals served at the centers are in addition to the 125,000 frozen meals that the COA contracts to have delivered to the homes of seniors through its Meals on Wheels program.
Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis said she asked the mayor to include the funds in the 2013 budget after Clark-Amar told her the extra $200,000 was needed to better serve the parish’s seniors.
“The building they are in, they are leasing it from the city,” Collins-Lewis said. “They have been having some issues with the air-conditioner.”
The request for funds for the Council on Aging came as part of a larger request for $775,000 in funds for community programs, Collins-Lewis said.
The request was denied in Holden’s proposed budget.
Holden, in a Nov. 1 forum for mayoral candidates hosted by the agency, said he would support placing a dedicated tax on the ballot to fund the COA’s operations.
William Daniel, Holden’s chief administrative officer, said the mayor’s office would be willing to consider putting the additional COA funds into a budget supplement after the first of the year.
“We are going to try to get with the council and look for ways to work with them on some of their projects,” he said.
Clark-Amar will make her plea before the Metro Council on Monday when the council hosts the third of a series of budget informational meetings on Holden’s proposed budget.
Holden submitted the budget to the council Nov. 5.
The Metro Council, which has the ability to move line items in the mayor’s budget with eight votes, will vote on the budget Dec. 11.