Ramona Senior Center faces $63,000 deficit

By Maureen Robertson

Unless something changes, Ramona Senior Center will shut its doors in four years — or sooner.

Operating approximately $63,000 in the red this year, the senior center is keeping its doors open with proceeds from the sale of a home — but that won’t last forever, says Pete Bakarich, president of the Pacific Educational Foundation Board that oversees operation of the center at 434 Aqua Lane.

Among factors contributing to the dilemma: a 25 percent cut in funding in 2010, another 21 percent cut during the federal budget sequestration this year, and rising costs for food, dairy and transportation, said Ray Cardona, the center’s director for the past 11 years.

Myra Stickney, Ramona Senior Center part-time bookkeeper, and Pete Bakarich, volunteer and president of the board that oversees the center, review the budget with Ray Cardona, center director. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

A look at the center’s 2013-14 budget shows expenditures of $302.812. Of that, $159,682 is for personnel, $85,755 for food, $20,000 for transportation and $35,532 for other costs such as rent, kitchen supplies, insurance and utilities. The center anticipates spending $1,125 for consulting/contracted services and $718 for travel and training.

The revenue column shows $164,247 from the county’s Aging and Independence Services, $51,642 from program income, $23,535 from other sources — and $63,388 in subsidy, money from the sale of the late Ann Lowry’s house.

Lowry, a Ramona senior who died in 2005, had no relatives and left her home to the senior center, said Cardona. It sold for $335,000.

“We’d be gone if she hadn’t done that,” he said.

The center started feeling the financial pinch about 18 months ago, said Cardona. Food that cost $5,500 to $5,600 a month five years ago now averages $9,000 a month. Dairy used to cost $450 to $500 a month. Now it’s $900 a month, he said.

Bakarich, a PEF Board member the past three years, is focusing on fundraisers as one way to boost the budget. He’s helped oversee the growth of the center’s annual Rib Fest, which raised about $800 the first year and last year, its eighth, netted $16,000. He hopes to best that in its new venue, the Olive Peirce Middle School performing arts center, on June 21, 2014.

He plans a Sponsor A Senior Walk-a-thon for April and also is considering a bike-a-thon.

The center is applying for a grant from Ford Motor Co. If it receives money, $15,000 will go for fuel and $5,000 for vehicle maintenance.

The center employees 10 people. Nine are part-time and include a bookkeeper, head cook, prep cook, dishwasher, bus driver and four delivery truck drivers. The only full-time employee is Cardona.

“There’s no way we can start laying off people,” said Bakarich. “It’s been discussed, but we don’t know where we could cut. They all have essential jobs.”

Open weekdays, the serves 60 to 70 lunches a day. Federal law prohibits charging seniors for the meals. Donations of $4 are suggested.

The center averages $3.50 in donations per meal, said bookkeeper Myra Stickney.

“We need $9.51 a meal to break even, so we’re losing money,” noted Cardona.

In addition to meals served in the center, drivers deliver meals to homebound seniors in eight zip codes, said Cardona: Ramona, Valley Center, Mesa Grande, Santa Ysabel, Warner Springs and adjacent communities.

“Without those deliveries, 80 people a day wouldn’t get lunch,” said Cardona. “For many of them, the only people they see are our driver, and the only substantial meal they get is from us.”

Ramona Food and Clothes Closet has been an incredible help, he said.

“This is the second year they’re giving the center $750 a month,” he said.

Rent is another factor. It was $1,500 a month but dropped to $1,200 a month with this year’s federal cuts. Owned by Ramona water district and operated by Ramona Parks and Recreation Association, Ramona Community Center houses the senior center. Considering the costs to operate the community center, RPRA is subsidizing the senior center, noted Cindy Galloway, RPRA executive director.

Volunteers once averaged 60 a month. Now the average is 30, said Cardona.

“We need volunteers,” he said. “We need younger volunteers and we need to bring new people in.”

Information about the center is on its new website, ramonaseniorcenter.com.

“We need the public to come to our aid, because some day everybody will be a senior and need somebody, and this is the place they’re looked after,” said Cardona.

The center is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to meals, it offers a variety of activities to those 60 and older and has a travel club open to those 50 and older.

For more information, call the center at 760-789-0440.

Related posts:

  1. Ramona Food and Clothes Closet donates to Senior Center
  2. Rolling pennies at Ramona Senior Center
  3. Senior center needs volunteers
  4. Centers for seniors, teens in jeopardy
  5. Jackie Creighton retires after 20 years at Ramona Senior Center

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Nov 21 2013. Filed under Featured Story, News, Ramona, Seniors. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

5 Comments for “Ramona Senior Center faces $63,000 deficit”

  1. Jane Tanaka MD

    Please dont be so quick to poop on the following, dear naysayers.
    This is just a brainstorming kind of idea…
    It combines the needs of the school district and the senior center, and maybe FFA, FHA and 4H in Ramona, and will make SDCE HOA look good too, if they would allow it.
    RUSD could lease some of its vacant land to the Senior's Center( or another non profit)for a low cost compared to price of fruits, veggies and milk.
    The 17 acres of fairy shrimp occupied RUSD land near RHS can be used for dairy farming. ( I looked up the County of SD ordinances; and grazing cattle is ok, but not grazing horses ). The 5 acres in the SDCE owned by RUSD could be used to raise fruits and veggies. Milk, , fruits and veggies, grown and processed by RUSD Ag students and/or 4H/FFA/ FHA could be used to feed our Senior Center and Meals on Wheels folks. Extra food could be sold to a local organic food store, or used for school lunches, or nearby senior centers. After the expenses, including lease payment to RUSD is made, proceeds can go back to 4H/FFA/FHA.

  2. justsinner99

    Ray, Pete, Cindy & the gang over there are truly top-notch, salt of the earth.

    Our church meets in their building on Sundays (9:30 AM) and they have been great to us.

    They do an invaluable service to the seniors in our community.

  3. jcarltonfarrier

    While the Senior Center Board and the daily operators of the Center may be wonderful people, the Center needs people who know how to run a non-profit organization without running into the ground. Their personalities are not at issue, it's their clumsiness with fiscal responsibility and lack of vision that concerns me. While other Senior Centers thrive around the County, ours languishes and will soon be insolvent. I encourage the Senior Center Board to think and act differently so it can get different results. Somebody has to get real here before it's too late.

    • Ramona Resident

      Get involved and put your words into action; also be careful when judging what you think is the issue unless you are there each day facing the challenges to feed all of the seniors with very little income.

      Good luck!

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