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Wilsonville Community Sharing receives grant funding

WCS president tells council the non-profit is revamping all policies, procedures


Having received the reports they requested, the Wilsonville City Council moved forward Monday with approval of almost $47,000 in grant funding for nonprofit Wilsonville Community Sharing.

The move came two weeks after councilors asked for additional information on the group’s finances, postponing approval of what has become a de facto annual grant. Wilsonville Community Sharing President Rich Truitt was on hand at Wilsonville City Hall on Monday to allay council concerns and explain that, in spite of decreasing unemployment, the demand on the group’s food bank and other services has not decreased accordingly.

“What we are finding is that, as we recover slowly from the recession, demand is still high for those services in our community,” Truitt said. “We hope we can look at the unemployment rate in the context of other actors that might bear on that in the future.”

As it turned out, the organization, which has undergone significant changes on its board of directors since last fall, also provided the city with annual financial reports dating back to 2011. The reports are required as a condition of the receipt of city grant funds and became a subject of concern two weeks ago when Mayor Tim Knapp raised the issue at the June 2 council meeting.

Other councilors agreed with Knapp at the time that more financial information should be turned over before additional grant funding would be approved. On Monday, however, all appeared to be in order and the council quickly voted unanimously to approve $30,677 worth of funding for administrative costs. Another $16,000 in funding is earmarked for Wilsonville Community Sharing’s renter assistance program, which helps low-income households with utility costs.

It is a significantly larger grant than the council approved a year ago, when it voted to send $22,477 in grant funding and $12,000 in utility relief to the organization. And, at nearly $47,000 in total, the grants represent almost half the group’s 2014 projected expenditures of $104,331.60, according to documents provided to the city.

“You’ve clearly taken a thorough look at the financial reporting for the org,” councilor Richard Goddard said to assistant city finance director Kathy Rodocker. “Are there any other concerns for how these monies are being accounted for?”

No, Rodocker replied, adding that the timing of certain city grants during 2012 somewhat skewed the group’s final annual statements from 2012 and 2013.

“It looks like the city paid them a lot in 2012 and not so much in 2013,” she said. “But it was just an accounting quirk; you report it when you receive it.”

Councilors also spent time Monday quizzing Truitt about the ongoing need for his organization’s services.

“We spend a fair amount of time in City Council hearing about needs in the community and identifying ‘Are we addressing those in the ways that we can and should?’ said Councilor Julie Fitzgerald. “So this information helps with that a lot.”

Fitzgerald noted that an extra $5,000 has been budgeted in 2014 for assisting renters specifically with rising electricity rates.

“Is that representing increased demands?” she asked.

“Yes,” Truitt answered. “It’s a combination of awareness of the aid and the need for that assistance.”

“So more people are finding out about ways of coming to Wilsonville Community Sharing to help them pay these bills?” Fitzgerald asked.

“Yes,” said Truitt.

“And it’s also simply an increase in the number of people?” Fitzgerald continued.

“Yes,” said Truitt. “It’s a combination of both factors.”

Truitt also told the council Wilsonville Community Sharing has reactivated its membership in the Nonprofit Association of Oregon, a statewide group dedicated to building the non-profit sector and promoting best practices.

That came in response to further questioning from Fitzgerald, who noted the June 2 council meeting also featured a back-and-forth discussion about board practices and management. Those were the topics that first arose last year when the board of directors was reduced to just two members and other controversy swirled around the organization during its search for a new location for its food bank.

“We’re now looking at all of our policies to make sure we are using best practices in accordance with the recommendations of that organization,” Truitt told the council. “We updated our policies on transparency at our last meeting (May 27).”

He added that he views the group’s recent issues as growing pains that come with expansion.

“We’re in the process of updating and I think it’s fair to say, and it’s not intended as any kind of criticism,” he said, “but Wilsonville Community Sharing started out in a very informal way to address the needs in the community. But as it has grown, it’s appropriate to revisit and strengthen some of our governance and practices.

“New board members are playing active roles in activities right now,” he said. “We try to achieve diversity in representation on the board in a lot of ways and we are looking to another generation of leaders who are coming along and we hope to prep them for leadership positions in the future.”