Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Coronado Senior Association Financial Sustainability Questioned

 

- Advertisement -

John D. Spreckels Center
John D. Spreckels Center

The Coronado Senior Association (CSA) has been under siege from some in the over-50 community. In the past two months, three CSA board members have resigned and senior citizen activists, Francette Roeder, Berie Grobe and Barry Austin have brought their concerns to the city council during oral communications. Austin has also written three letters to the Eagle-Journal blasting the group’s board of directors.

- Advertisement -

The complaints are that CSA does not have a credible business plan and is misappropriating taxpayer money. “The CSA collects about $9,000 annually, 80% of which goes to salaries. Coronado taxpayers fund $34,200 of the deficit,” Austin wrote in a letter to the editor in September.

CSA has two long-term employees, Linda Ferguson and Rick Burnett. Ferguson has been with the CSA for 20 years; Burnett for 14 years. It is these two employees who are at the heart of the dispute. Roeder, Grobe and Austin think they are superfluous. Others say they are irreplaceable.

- Advertisement -

“They are the pulse of the Senior Association,” said Caroline Haines, former CSA president. “You have to have a staff. If people don’t have skin in the game, they don’t show up.”

The group also challenges Austin’s claim that 80% of their funds go toward salaries. Besides staff, the group has a number of administrative costs – insurance, licenses, office supplies, bookkeeping services, and postage—that account for most of its expenses, according Prudy Stephens, who serves as the CSA’s interim president.

Austin doesn’t have anything against Ferguson or Burnett. “Both are good people,” he said. He just thinks they are unnecessary and that the work they do could be handled by volunteers.

He points to the Coronado Lawn Bowling Club (CLBC) as a business model the CSA should emulate. “[It] uses all of its funds to offer a variety of programs and contributes cash to the city to support operations of the Spreckels Center.” These are user fees. Tennis players using city courts pay them as do golfers at the Municipal Golf Course.

The CSA is not the only community organization funded by the city. Currently there are 16 nonprofits who receive an annual grant from the city. Many use the money to pay staff  salaries. For many years the CSA was one of those recipients. This year the city decided to include the money as a line item in the Recreation Department’s budget.

Without city funding, the CSA could not pay for staff. It only earns $1,200 from membership. Fund-raising has been limited to one donor letter than went out earlier this year and a donate button the CSA webpage. “This isn’t financially sustainable,” said Grobe, who heads the CLBC and was one of the CSA broad members who left.

There has always been some tension between the CLBC and CSA. Lawn bowlers resented having to join the CSA to play their sport. When the city explored replacing the old senior center building, it was the lawn bowlers who wanted something truly spectacular. Many CSA members simply wanted to spruce up the original building.

The old Senior Center building.

The city council listened to the lawn bowlers and the seniors who wanted a high-end facility. It dipped into the Harpst Fund and broke ground.

Having spent millions on the new facility, the city wanted to make sure it received a return on its investment. It developed its own programs, hired its own staff and created its own governing board. The programs reflect the interest of active, vibrant seniors: tai chi, cardio dance and yoga, art enrichment and cooking classes. Not only are these more in line with the interests of today’s seniors, they are, according to Grobe, of a much higher quality ”than those offered by the CSA.”

CSA programs are not as dynamic, but they are not intended to be. “We’re here for a different senior population. People who live alone, are in poor health or are not rich,” Haines said. For those seniors, CSA offers card games, a movie night, a place to come and make new friends. Having two familiar faces at a desk to greet those members and help them feel at home is paramount. “They provide compassion and respect to members and guests –specialized skills which cannot be taught,” said Stephens.

For how long is debatable. Grobe thinks that in the not too distant future the CSA will eventually have to let the staff go. “It costs $75 thousand a year to pay for two part time staff,” she said.  “I worked in human resources. I know.”

By its own accounts, the CSA doesn’t have the money. Without a major fundraising effort, it is not likely to have it. “They sent out a letter to the members asking for donations, but nothing came of it,” Grobe said. Haines admits that the group needs to do more aggressive fundraising. “We will in time,” she said. For now she wishes that “everyone would just chill.”

 

-----
Do You Value Local News?
Become a Paid Supporter

Keep it civil. Comments may be removed or closed if they violate Terms of Service.

Avatar
Gloria Tierney
A freelance writer in San Diego for more than 30 years. She has written for a number of national and international newspapers, including the Times of London, San Diego Tribune, Sierra Magazine, Reuters News Service and Patch.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: manager@ecoronado.com
Advertisement

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Support for Nick Kato for Coronado School Board

Submitted by Shane DurkinFriends and Neighbors,This letter is to affirm my support for Nick Kato to be elected to the Coronado School Board. I...

Support for Whitney Antrim for Coronado School Board

Submitted by Whitney BenzianI am supporting Whitney Antrim for the Coronado School Board. I have known Whitney since our snazzy red sweater days at...

In Support of Whitney Antrim for CUSD Board

Submitted by Charlie KhouryWhat should the community of Coronado want in their school board?A board member who puts children first. Anyone who has...

Support for Whitney Antrim for School Board

Submitted by Mali HinesleyAs a Coronado native and someone who actively cares about our community, I’m honored to support Whitney Antrim for local school...

NEW STORIES

CUSD Board Meeting: Phase 3 Reopening, Equity Committee Formation and Upcoming Election

The Coronado Unified District School Board met on Thursday, October 15 at 4 pm at the district offices located at 201 Sixth Street. Community...

Quarantine Family Collaboration: How Olympian Jesse Smith Brought Water Polo to a Children’s Book

What started as a series of bedtime stories quickly grew into a family collaboration and COVID-quarantine project, resulting in the world’s first illustrated children’s...

Frontline Workers: Coronado Grocery Employees Share Insights

Grocery stores and markets are among the essential businesses called on to remain open from the start and throughout the continued duration of the...

City Council Candidates Get Down To Business – Forum Video Link

The Coronado Chamber of Commerce was delighted to welcome the four candidates running for Coronado City Council to a socially-distanced forum at the Coronado...

Coronado Democratic Club Hosts Candidate and Ballot Measures Forums (videos)

CDC Coronado City Council Candidate Forum https://youtu.be/eq0QhMDyInkCDC Coronado School Board Candidate Forum https://youtu.be/44tY5T7YGLkCDC Ballot Propositions Forum presented by the League of Women Voters https://youtu.be/INyhaU6Q6PUFind more information on...