Senior program too costly to save

DOWNEY - The Downey City Council declined Tuesday to pay approximately $60,000 to revive OASIS, the defunct senior program dropped by the Downey Unified School District as part of budget cuts earlier this year.Council members, however, agreed to allocate $15,000 in federal grants to possibly bring back the program in a diminished capacity. OASIS - Older Adults Seeking Information and Skills - met Monday afternoons in the Downey Adult School cafeteria during school months. About 100 seniors gathered for socializing, an entertainment or educational program and a reduced-price dinner. The program was funded by DUSD and coordinated by instructor Harriett Paine, who retired this year. According to a report by community services director Thad Phillips, OASIS requires at least $60,000 per year to cover personnel and operating expenses. The figure includes $4,800 for an employee working six hours a week; an assistant working at $9.29 per hour; $600 stipend for a piano player; $10,000 stipend for entertainment; and "indirect" costs of $5,000. Phillips said he had not received estimates from local restaurants but estimated meals could cost $8.50 per person. Phillips identified a $15,000 Community Development Block Grant that can be used towards OASIS, but the city would have to come up with the remaining $45,000 to maintain the program in its current form. The city is already facing a multi-million dollar deficit this fiscal year, Phillips pointed out. Council members Roger Brossmer and Mario Guerra suggested cutting costs - particularly meals - to make OASIS more affordable. Both council members said they "felt uncomfortable" dipping into public funds while the city deals with a budget deficit. Phillips is expected to come back to the council with a reduced OASIS program that can be funded with the $15,000 federal grant. The Barbara J. Riley Community and Senior Center currently hosts a daily nutrition program and Café Quill, a "festive-themed" dinner for seniors with live entertainment. But accommodating the large size of OASIS would be a problem, Phillips said.

********** Published: August 26, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 19