Saturday, June 16, 2001

Center fights to keep funding


United Way being asked to review cut of $171K

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — A representative of the Northern Kentucky Community Center vowed Friday to keep the agency operating, despite the apparent loss of nearly half its funding.

        “It looks bleak at this time. I'll be the first to admit it, but I'm not a give-up person,” said Cliff Cooper, chairman of the center's board of directors. “We'll just have to accelerate our plans to become self-sufficient.”

        Last month, the United Way announced that it was de-funding the private, non-profit agency in the heart of Covington's African-American community, making it one of only 15 to 20 agencies in the past 20 years to lose all of its United Way funding. The charity cited management concerns and the center's inability to show what it had accomplished with its United Way-funded programs.

        Run out of the former all-black Lincoln Grant school, the center offers programs in youth development, as well as day care for 29 children.

        On Tuesday, center representatives met with the charity's Vision Council Leadership Team to appeal United Way's decision to cut its $171,167 in funding — almost half of the agency's $360,000 budget. That appeal was denied, but center officials requested a review of that decision on Friday.

        United Way spokeswoman Carol Aquino said the charity's executive committee should reach its decision within a week.

        Should the United Way's decision stand, other non-profit agencies would be asked to provide programs and services for east Covington residents, Ms. Aquino said. The funds that would have gone to the community center in fiscal year 2002 have been set aside for use in predominantly African-American east Covington, pending a final decision on the center's request for a review.

        In recent months, the Northern Kentucky Community Center has been criticized for poor record keeping, nonpayment of bills and weak administration. Most of its paid staff has been laid off, and volunteers are helping answer the phones and run programs, Mr. Cooper said.

        A federal program that provided free food to more than 130 families a month was recently discontinued, after the center failed to pick up a shipment of frozen food and submit the required paperwork for its May distribution, said Don Glass, who runs the commodities program for the Northern Kentucky Area Development District. Mr. Glass said families are being referred to other distribution centers.

        The community center also owes the Housing Authority of Covington $9,500 in back rent for three transitional housing units at the City Heights complex.

        And last month, Sally Davis, Gov. Paul Patton's Northern Kentucky liaison, helped the center — facing more than $80,000 in delinquent utility bills — secure an extension to keep its electricity on.

        At Tuesday's meeting, Mr. Cooper said board members attempted to show how various programs had been “linked up” to meet United Way program outcomes.

        Board members and Rollins Da vis, the center's executive director, also presented a strategic management plan that called for more detailed reporting between the center staff and its board, Mr. Cooper said. In one change, the center proposed making monthly reports on outcomes of United Way-funded programs, instead of quarterly reports.

        The plan also calls for the board to form an audit committee to track deadlines for audits and other required paperwork, he said.

        The 1998 audit that the United Way has sought since last September was provided in April, and the charity is still awaiting the routine audit of the center's 1999 operations.

        “In the past, we've always depended on the (board) treasurer, but recently, we haven't had one that's functioned the way a treasurer should,” Mr. Cooper said.

        Since March, when the community center's board prohibited Mr. Davis from signing checks or handling center finances, two board members have served as treasurer. The city of Covington has set aside $36,000 for center programs in the coming fiscal year. However, those contracts have not been finalized, said Howard Hodge, city housing director.

       



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