By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- More elderly residents in the region are receiving Meals on Wheels as the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging works to fix its money woes.
The SAAA board of directors heard the news at their meeting Thursday as they discussed the agency's finances and policy changes. The agency continues to improve its financial situation since last fall when, as the board Chairman John Hudson noted, the "wheels fell off the cart."
SAAA took 17 clients off its waiting list for Meals of Wheels about a week ago, according to Jonathan Price, director of operations for the agency. The SAAA at the beginning of June should bring all its "congregants" on the waiting list at its centers, Price said.
"In addition to doing the accounts payable and knocking down back debt we're trying to serve more, too, so once again things are looking on the up-and-up," Price said.
The waiting list of 25 people is comprised of two each in Warren and Page counties, none in Clarke or Shenandoah counties, five in Frederick County and 16 in Winchester, according to Roberta Lauder, director of resource development. Lauder told the board she did not know the reason for the higher amount of people in Winchester who remain on the waiting list.
"Winchester has been highest historically during this whole fiscal time," Lauder said.
Board member Dr. Robert Kendall, of Winchester, asked whether a disparity existed with the city's numbers and also if Winchester had experienced more than 16 people on the waiting list. Lauder said she would look into the numbers.
Hudson lauded the efforts of Price and the rest of the staff for their work on the agency's finances and policies.
"All these things are just critical because, when this is all in place and all is said and done, we want people to look at the agency [to say] 'you know what those financials are absolutely squeaky clean, accurate' and there will never be a question about making the processes we've used to come up with the figures that we give out," Hudson said.
The year to date balance of $136,000 as of April 30 allowed the agency to pay $42,000 toward its back debt, according to Price, which Hudson called significant.
Earlier in the meeting the board discussed at length the issue of accrued vacation and sick leave for employees. Hudson explained the SAAA's former chief financial officer allowed staff to continue to accumulate sick leave and vacation time in violation of the agency's policy. Doing so left the SAAA with a liability, according to Hudson. If all SAAA employees left the agency, it would have to pay out a total of $86,500 for accrued sick leave and vacation time.
"We're not real certain why it was allowed to happen," Hudson said. "Just chalk it up to additional mismanagement of the policy."
Extended debate ensued over who a new policy should affect, whether to grandfather in those people who accrued leave over the 120 hours maximum allowed under the current policy, and how best to encourage employees with the extra time to use it. According to staff, the agency has six employees who have more than the 120 hours allowed under the policy.
Board member Jim Brinkmeier made a motion to change the policy to eliminate part-time workers from receiving the vacation and sick leave benefit -- an idea his colleagues and staff said could impact many of the agency's 40 employees. As the staff noted, SAAA has more part-time workers than full-time and they use the benefits as a way to attract and keep employees.
The debate ended with board members agreeing to vote down Brinkmeier's motion, since it had received a second, and table the matter. Hudson asked staff to continue to look at the issue and come back to the board after they discuss the matter with the workers who have more than the allowable leave time.
The board hit another bump with the proposed changes to the policy when members noted the issue plays a major role in the lawsuit filed against the agency by former director Helen Cockrell. The former official claims in her lawsuit the agency owes her for back pay related to accrued time through the SAAA's current policy, according to at least one member.
In other business:
- Board members approved a conflict of interest policy pertaining to its membership. The panel addressed the possible conflict of interest posed by member Johnny Woodward, who also serves on the Page County Board of Supervisors. Hudson explained a potential conflict of interest exists if Woodward votes on a matter which could directly or indirectly benefit his locality.
- Lauder reported that the SAAA barbeque chicken dinner held May 19 in Berryville resulted in a profit of $4,974.43 thanks mostly to anonymous donors whose contributions meant the event cost the agency $315.
- Fundraising from Oct. 1, 2011, through Wednesday -- not including the Walkathon event -- totaled $118,059.29. The agency had raised $88,393.40 in the 12 months of fiscal 2011, according to Lauder.
- SAAA was not selected as a United Way Impact Grant recipient this year for the agency's Our Place program.
- SAAA received a bonus of $1,000 from the senior Medicare program for exceeding grant goals.