No plans to cut EBR Council on Aging services, despite $400,000 deficit

The East Baton Rouge Council on Aging continues to operate at a deficit of about $400,000 a year and a new audit out this week questions the agency’s viability due to increasing demands that outpace funding.

Council on Aging Executive Director Tasha Clark-Amar said leaders are working to address the financial issues without affecting the seniors they serve.

At this time, there are no plans to cut back services, as is suggested in the audit.

“These are lives that we deal with,” she said. “We have people that depend and live off these meals.”

The Council on Aging, which operates 14 senior centers throughout parish and runs the meal delivery program for low-income seniors, receives funding from the city-parish, state and federal governments, in addition to grants, donations and other outside fundraising efforts.

Clark-Amar said fundraising has become a key focus of efforts to address budget issues at the agency.

“Every day, we get more requests from seniors,” she said. “It’s a fine line we are walking.”

The audit, released this week by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office, examines the council’s financial activities for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Last year, an audit from the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs raised similar concerns. At the time, Clark-Amar attributed many of the issues to a “rocky transition” from the previous director.

When Clark-Amar first came on board as director in July 2011, the Council on Aging was struggling financially and had to take out a $50,000 bank loan just to meet payroll obligations.

Clark-Amar said 10 issues have been rectified, including issues in purchasing and staffing.

One ongoing issue highlighted in the most recent audit and not yet resolved is the council’s inability to secure adequate insurance for its outdated headquarters on Florida Boulevard.

The city-parish requires the Council on Aging to insure the site up to $5 million, but the council only carries $2.5 million in insurance, the audit notes.

The Council on Aging is supposed to be moving to a new city-parish property on Main Street in the near future.

In addition to providing better facilities, that move likely would resolve the under-insurance issue.

Clark-Amar said the council is hoping to begin its move to the new building later this year.