If the Area 12 Agency on Aging doesn't get at least $28,000 more, the senior meals program probably will not last through next month, the agency's leaders told the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors yesterday.

The amount is above and beyond another $24,833 in other fees the county board agreed to pay.

With a cash infusion from the board, agency representatives said, hot meals could be served until at least June.

"We need answers within the next week," said Mark Thornton, chairman of Area 12's governing board, in front of a standing-room-only audience in the Board of Supervisors chamber.

The senior meals program was serving hot lunches from the Calaveras Senior Center until last week, when it moved its kitchen out because it could no longer afford $1,000 a month rent. The agency is paying local restaurants to provide senior meals and is still providing cold meals that can be prepared at home.

Some 500 Calaveras seniors, according to Area 12, had received hot meals either at the San Andreas center, at several satellite centers in other communities or had meals delivered to their homes.

The meals program has been in the red for months, before Area 12 took it over from another nonprofit agency. Its deficit for this fiscal year reached $41,967 in December.

Of this, Thornton said, $28,000 is from lost revenue. Thornton calls that the "hard cash" deficit.

Supervisors at yesterday's meeting voted 4-1 to give $24,833, equaling two years of "overmatch" fees that Calaveras County had not paid. The agency's other four member counties Tuolumne, Mariposa, Amador and Alpine have paid.

Overmatch fees cover costs associated with home-delivered meals. The money is set aside to pay for meals that were not accounted for in the year's original budget.

District 5 Supervisor Victoria Erickson voted no yesterday, asking why the agency should set aside funds for unexpected meals when it can't pay for the ones it does plan for.

"Why put the overmatch money in a trust fund if the deficit continues to grow?" Erickson said. "Why not pay off the deficit?