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Eastside making fiscal strides

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Eastside Community Center officials remain hopeful the center could regain eligibility for United Way of Bartholomew County funding.

At the moment, however, they are not counting on it.

Priscilla Scalf, the community center’s executive director, said since losing United Way money last year, Eastside’s officials have tightened their belts and diversified funding sources to make up the difference.

The center has expanded and strengthened the center’s programs, including the fee-for-service programs that account for about half of the programs the center offers, Scalf said.

Eastside offers services that aid its clients in gaining financial literacy and stability, including programs on budgeting, foreclosure intervention and tax assistance.

The community center first lost its certification and eligibility for United Way funding in early April 2013 when a volunteer finance professional reviewing the community center’s materials noticed warning signs. On Sept. 13, United Way learned that the center owed the IRS about $60,000 in unpaid payroll taxes dating to 2011 and 2012.

Officials with both organizations met in December to review financial records, but United Way officials did not reinstate Eastside’s certification, citing concerns about whether the community center was being run properly.

Losing the funding from United Way hurt, Scalf said, and the center’s budget is running short by roughly the amount it would have received from United Way.

In 2013, Eastside received a $36,000 United Way grant to cover about 14 percent of its $250,000 annual budget.

But she said Eastside has “always been an organization that works on a shoestring budget,” so they’re making it work.

Scalf said before losing funding, the center served anywhere from 20 to 40 people per month in Bartholomew County and 11 other Indiana counties. The center now serves 30 to 60 people a month in 22 counties, expanding the center’s services by at least 120 people each year.

She said Eastside also is working to develop new programs related to current services and is applying for different grants through financial institutions and other services that it previously had not turned to.

And Scalf said the center is keeping up on its payments to the IRS.

“We feel like, financially, we’ve kind of gotten to a stable position,” Scalf said. “We are staying current on everything.”

Scalf said she and the other officials feel positive about where the center stands right now, both in finances and in programs, and about the progress they have made.

She said the center’s nine-member board of directors decided not to apply for United Way funding this year, but is hopeful about getting another chance.

They have a meeting scheduled with Mark Stewart, president of United Way, in the middle of July, pending the results of an audit and financial review.

Scalf said she looks forward to sitting down with Stewart and seeing where the conversation leads.

Stewart said while he understands the center has made progress, the meeting with Eastside’s officials is just one more step in a long process.

United Way’s leaders “want to work with organizations that work toward achieving our goals in the community,” but they have to balance that with the responsibility to keep those groups accountable, he said.

Regardless of whether or not the center can regain its status as a United Way-certified agency, Scalf said its primary focus will remain the same: making sure that clients receive the services they need.

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