We are operating under our basic premise that if we stay on the current path of ever increasing real estate taxes, we will price seniors and those living on fixed incomes out of their homes that have worked all their lives to achieve; we are trying to ensure that all governmental bodies and non-profits receiving taxpayers’ funds are good stewards of those funds.
In 2017, we analyzed the distribution of taxpayers’ fund from the Senior Levy last year, and discovered that $619,925 was paid to RSVP for the period 2013 – 2017.
We contacted Ms. Cristen Kane, Director, to ask what RSVP did for the community, and we were told that they are an employment agency for senior volunteers. We then asked for 5 years worth of financial statements so we could better understand how the funds are spent. Here is one of the five years worth of financial statements received from Ms. Kane: RSVP Financials 2016
It was far less than we were expecting. We were hoping to get all the revenue streams, and the detailed disbursements by account for RSVP.
Upon reviewing the information, we thought that Ms. Kane was not being forthcoming with the financial information. On December 5, 2017, we communicated with the Lake County Commissioners’ office to express our disappointment in what we received, and asked the Commissioners to consider transferring the 2018 distribution from the Senior Levy to the Lake County Council on Aging, where it could make a meaningful impact on their Meals on Wheels program.
When we reviewed the 2018 distributions, we were again amazed that not only had the Commissioners not heeded our suggestions, they increased the RSVP distribution to $125,000. This is more than 9 of the 10 Senior Centers received from the levy. So in the last six years, RSVP has received $744,925.
At a recent meeting, Commissioner Troy staunchly supported the RSVP, stating that the community gets far more in return than the funds given to RSVP. We then asked if the Commissioners could get us the complete accounting for the $744,925. To our surprise the Commissioners office, for the last two years, have been on a reimbursement system with RSVP. That means, RSVP submits an invoice and the County pays it.
When we heard this, it was then apparent to us that the County had in its possession the financial information, for at least the last two years, all the time, but chose, for some reason not to provide it to us. We did get the County Administrator to agree to provide us with the reimbursements for the last two years, and were told we should have the information by Friday, 4/27/18. Stay tuned.
We contacted Ms. Kane again this year, and again asked for the financial statements, but we did not receive any correspondence. However, she did take time to contact Commissioner Troy, which was acknowledged by Troy at a Commissioners’ meeting. We received a voice mail message from Mr. Steve Thompson, Willoughby-Eastlake School Superintendent, offering to give us information about RSVP. We returned his phone call, asking for a meeting since there are several Lobbyists for Citizens that would like to attend. We have yet to hear back from him.
We have reached out to a W-E School Board member so we will see if it leads to a meeting. In the meantime, we have continued to research all we can find about this elusive organization. Thanks to Lobbyist Kim for finding this website that provides an Operational Handbook for RSVP organizations. It helped us understand the origins of the organization, and why Willougbhy-Eastlake Schools are involved.
Here is what we currently know about RSVP:
RSVP is a Federal Program started in 1971. It has matched older adults who are willing to help with local organizations on the front lines of meeting community needs. Each local organization needs a sponsor and Willoughby-Eastlake Schools are their sponsor.
- They receive funding from the Federal Government, Lake County Senior Levy, and from Willoughby-Eastlake schools.
2. In the February 13, 2017 School Board minutes, we discovered that the following grant applications and awards were approved: The Board of County Commissioners awarded a $50,000.00 grant to RSVP for “Music and Memory” program.
3. Ms. Cristen Kane is currently employed by the Willoughby-Eastlake School system as a teacher with a job description of “Other Professional / Other assignment an earned $(redacted) 2017 for working 241 days.
We will continue to update Lake County residents when we find out more information about this organization. We will not be deterred in getting to the bottom of this.