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SAAA now living 'paycheck to paycheck'

By Alex Bridges

The Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging lives "paycheck to paycheck" with fewer donations and lingering debt.

The amount of unrestricted donations to the agency has dropped from $29,000 collected in April to $4,000 in August, according to Jonathan Price, SAAA director of fiscal operations in Front Royal.

"So we've had a decrease in unrestricted donations and then we've had a decrease in our grant draw downs, which hurts our revenues, and we still have to maintain operations. It's getting difficult to do that with the revenues we have coming in," Price said Tuesday.

The SAAA board met Friday and discussed the agency's financial situation. Price told the board the agency paid approximately $250,000 on outstanding bills in July and August, the majority of which included outstanding debt.

"It's very difficult for us to sit on a cash reserve right now when we have all this unpaid debt from last fiscal year, and the only way of paying that unpaid debt is with unrestricted donations, unrestricted cash, which we have had decrease," Price said.

Price noted that board Chairman John Hudson called it a "stress test" for the agency.

"The agency over basically two years has been living paycheck to paycheck," Price said. "Think of a person who's ... sitting on a major amount of debt -- they really can't sit on a cash reserve because they're trying to pay all these past-due debts and then what happens if basically you lose your job or, in our case, your revenues drop. We're in a precarious situation."

The agency had $64,458 in cash at the end of the previous fiscal year on Sept. 30, according to Price. However, he expects SAAA finances to drop to negative $24,092 by the end of this month.

That negative balance will increase to $32,642 by the end of November and then to negative $66,942 in December.

As Price explained, the agency needs more than $100,000 to make it through the next three months -- $66,492 to cover expenses and $41,694 it owes to Yount, Hyde and Barbour before the Winchester accounting firm can begin the agency's next audit, according to Price.

Price noted that the SAAA relies heavily on unrestricted donations to cover much of its expenses and can only use such sources to pay off its lingering debt.

The agency receives funding in the form of reimbursement grants from the state Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation.This means the SAAA must spend cash on hand first before the departments reimburse the agency, Price explained.

DARS provided $1.1 million in grant funding to the agency in the previous fiscal year.

The SAAA recently reached a deal with its former Executive Director Helen Cockrell to settle a lawsuit she filed against the agency over her termination more than a year ago. The agreement also settled a counterclaim the agency sought against Cockrell over the SAAA's financial situation which left the non-profit with unpaid bills.

The SAAA board decided to settle in the face of mounting legal costs. The same day they reached the settlement, Cockrell and her husband filed for bankruptcy. SAAA board Chairman John Hudson has said the agency hopes Clarke County Commonwealth Attorney Suzanne "Suni" Mackall will continue to investigate Cockrell for any criminal wrongdoing while leading the agency.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


I don't understand why the investigation is taking so long. It has been over a year since Ms. Cockrell was fired. Maybe potential donors are waiting to see if this manner is taken seriously by law enforcement and the courts before donating any more money. Also, would someone please explain why Clarke County would have jusidiction over any criminal case that is developed from this mess? Isn't the main office of SAAA in Front Royal/Warren County?

What I don't understand is how on Sept 21, 2012, NVD prints that during an SAAA Board meeting, Chairman of the SAAA Board John Hudson (the same John Hudson quoted above) said that SAAA had come in $1.2 million under budget for 2012 and NOW in this article SAAA is saying they will end up broke again, less than a month later! How does that happen? I think this type of situation is why donors are hesitating to donate, not because of what has or hasn't happened with Ms. Cockrell. And "want" you're correct, it has been over a year since Ms. Cockrell was fired, so one would think the current SAAA administration would by now have a handle on the business operations of the organization. Again, if I were to donate, this is the type of information I would be looking at - how is the organization currently being run and what is being done with donations now. Is the current staff competent to get the job done? Does the current Board know what it's doing? Good questions that I'm not sure have good answers. And, in answer to your question about Clarke County having jurisdiction, I don't think they do. Perhaps, Mr Hudson was misquoted, I believe that's happened before...

I think you are both on track. They stated in the other paper that the next meeting of the board is 11/2/12 at 9a. I think i will go and hear with my own ears what is talked about.

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