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Brad Berens: Senior center not failing

Posted: August 22, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 22, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Related to the Aug. 11 Myers’ Musings column, I had a sense of deja vu back to an article I responded to many years ago in which he got facts wrong and then, as now, made assumptions that have no bearing in reality.

First, the board of directors of the SCV Committee on Aging has never been an “ungodly size” unless one considers 17 members to be ungodly. Never was the agency in dire financial circumstances — lean at times, yes, but the facts are from 1991 to 2010 (my tenure) we had 18 out of 19 balanced budgets, often with more than respectable surpluses.

Overhead was at 13 percent, and the utilities were around $45,000 per year, not the $180,000 to $240,000 referenced in the column.

Never was any information withheld from the board, and in fact we weathered every storm with innovative and cost-efficient alternative plans ... remember the de-funding of our Adult Day Care program to the tune of $100,000? Well, the program continued by adapting.

Let me point out other facts for Myers’ Musings: Organizational revenues were enhanced on average by 22 percent annually, growing from a $1 million organization to more than $3 million. Client participation grew on average 42 percent annually.

We developed more than 600 affordable housing units. We had the largest spectrum of programs for seniors in the county of Los Angeles and received both national and international recognition.

For the record, despite the so-called anonymous letter, agencies like the SCV Committee on Aging are audited every year by independent CPA firms and are further audited both programmatically and financially by every single funding source. This accounted to about 12 audits per year. Every one was a clean audit.

By the way, in reference to the column’s definitive statement that the under-60 crowd was typically served, the Older Americans Act allows for younger spouses of seniors to be served in the congregate program, as are caregivers allowed to receive a meal regardless of age.

As for the current state of affairs, the center did not receive a 22 percent cut in funding. The county, and rightfully so, amended its past fiscal funding policies to baselines.

Previously, the policies were unfair to smaller agencies. I’m glad I advocated recently for that change allowing for 116,000 meals to be potentially redistributed and put every agency and every community on a level playing field.

Since 1991 there were many people associated with the senior center who also aspired to public office. The vast majority were genuinely concerned about the welfare of our elders and not trying to get a leg up for an election.

Duane Harte (Myers is right) is one of those great leaders who cares. There were others, and there are so now, whose motives are less than genuine. Our elders see through their motives.

Santa Clarita elders are fortunate to have a progressive and caring City Council who genuinely cares about everyone on the aging continuum. Their support exceeds all other communities I’m aware of throughout both Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Timothy Myers, it is good you care, too; just get your facts right.

Brad Berens is a Santa Clarita resident and executive director of the Antelope Valley Committee on Aging. He is former executive director of the SCV Senior Center.


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