A reader posed a number of questions about the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging. So we went to Anita Byrne, a partner with SSA Consultants and a spokeswoman for the agency, and to Advocate reporter Andrea Gallo for some answers.
1. What does the Council on Aging do? What are its stated goals?
"Since 1973, the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging has served the seniors 60 years of age or older in the parish by providing a variety of nutritional and social services such as the nationally recognized Meals on Wheels program, in-home assessments, care management and utility assistance," Byrne said. "For seniors who are not homebound, there are more than a dozen community Senior Centers throughout the parish, with six new Senior Centers opening in July and August 2018. The Senior Centers provide opportunities for seniors to socialize over meals, enjoy educational workshops, art classes, health screenings, exercise and balance instruction, crafts, defensive driving classes, computer courses, gardening, games and many other activities.
"The EBRCOA will host a Senior Lifestyle Expo open to the public at the Raising Cane’s River Center on Oct. 12, 2018. Seniors and their caregivers are encouraged to attend.
"The EBRCOA's mission is 'Supporting Independence and Serving Seniors,' and their main goals are to provide high-quality services to seniors, help them to maintain their personal independence, and enhance their storied lives while being good fiduciary stewards of the public’s trust and funds. More information about the Council on Aging and how to access its services can be found online at www.ebrcoa.org."
2. Who are its officers, staff? Salaries?
"The Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs provides oversight and guidance to federally designated Area Agencies on Aging, like the EBR Council on Aging, to ensure compliance with federal and state laws. There is also a 15-member board of directors who are elected by the membership of EBRCOA and who serve without compensation. Attorney Jennifer Moisant is the current board chair," Byrne said.
"The EBRCOA currently employs 95 staff members and their salaries are in line with those of other nonprofits providing similar services. A snapshot of the first quarter of 2018 activities included 23,570 congregate (hot) meals served in senior centers, 72,610 meals delivered through 30 Meals on Wheels routes, and 1,210 visits to seniors through Homemaker Services."
According to information provided to The Advocate after reporter Andrea Gallo filed a public records request, the five highest-paid full-time employees of the agency are: CEO Tasha Clark-Amar at $101,238 a year; Chief Administrative Officer James Gilmore at $90,000, Chief Financial Officer Eva B. Pratt at $74,672; Shontell R. LeBeouf, chief operating officer, $74,672; and Trudy Bihm-Howard, special assistant to the CEO for special programs and project coordination, at $68,016.
3. What is its annual budget and where does that come from?
Byrne said "EBRCOA operates with a multiplicity of funding streams totaling approximately $11 million annually. The agency’s activities, which are available to the more than 86,000 seniors in East Baton Rouge Parish, are funded through private donations, federal and state programmatic-based funds, and a local property tax millage."
But Gallo has reported that most of the agency's funds come from the dedicated property tax that voters approved on Nov. 7, 2016. That 10-year, 2.25-mill property tax has almost quadrupled the agency's annual revenues, which were only $3.2 million before the tax went into effect.
4. Is it a governmental agency? City? State? Federal?
"The Council on Aging is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and a quasi-governmental entity which receives private philanthropic donations and public funds," Byrne says. "Because it receives public funds, it must follow certain laws such as the Open Meetings Law, meaning that the board meetings are open to the public. The council must also have an annual audit performed through the Legislative Auditor’s office by a certified public accountant that is submitted to the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs and the East Baton Rouge Metro Council."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column was modified on Aug. 14, 2018. The prior version accidentally omitted the salary of Shontell R. LeBeouf, chief operating officer, among the top five salaried COA administrators. LeBeouf's salary is $74,672, and instead included Wilbert E. Giron, purchasing agent/fleet manager, whose salary is $68,000. He is not among the top five. The Advocate regrets the error.