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No quick fix for Eastside funding

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Officials with United Way of Bartholomew County reviewed financial records provided by the Eastside Community Center a week ago, but the nonprofit agency remains barred from getting any United Way funding because of concerns about whether Eastside is properly run.

“It was a positive meeting. We are heading in the right direction,” said Mark Stewart, president of United Way. “This was step one; we have many steps to go.”

Stewart said Friday he doubts United Way’s concerns about Eastside’s financial operations will be resolved quickly.

“It won’t be in the first three months of the year,” Stewart said.

That means Eastside almost certainly won’t qualify for any United Way grants in 2014, since much of that money has already been committed to other nonprofits in good standing, Stewart said.

United Way officials stripped the neighborhood community center — run by executive director Priscilla Scalf and a nine-member board — of its certification last year and later learned that Eastside owed the IRS about $60,000 in unpaid payroll taxes dating to 2011 and 2012.

“They remain uncertified,” Stewart said. “We will be following up with requests for additional information related to more detailed financials and governance documents.”

Angela Shafer, vice chairwoman of the Eastside board and president of Harrison College’s campus in Columbus, and Scalf were among representatives who took part in the Dec. 20 meeting on behalf of Eastside. Scalf didn’t return a message seeking comment.

Others who took part in the meeting for Eastside included the group’s bookkeeper, treasurer and its secretary, Stewart said.

United Way officials said potential problems with Eastside’s finances first came to light in early April when a volunteer finance professional reviewing the community center’s materials noticed “warning signs,” Stewart said.

Eastside lost its certification at that point as United Way officials sought answers to clear up their concerns. Then, on

Sept. 13, United Way received a letter from the IRS detailing the extent of the tax agency’s problems with Eastside.

United Way board members said it is rare for any nonprofit to lose certification because of financial or other serious concerns. Often, United Way works closely with an agency to address problems that may be brewing, and then it resumes funding when the potential grant recipient gets back on track.

Meanwhile, time is running out for Eastside to have any chance for 2014 funding from United Way, even if it provides more information to clear its reputation. Funding for 2015 might even be in doubt since those certification packets will be sent out in February, and funding decisions will be made in September.

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

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