County Won't Get Out Of REACH

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With a large gathering of students and parents involved in the Cannon County REACH Afterschool Program in attendance, the Cannon County Commission took no action Tuesday night toward ending the county’s ties to the program.

The county provides operational oversight and bookkeeping support for the program, which has been in existence for over a dozen years.

While the program has been self-supporting for most of the years it has been in operation, largely through grants, it became a financial burden on the county two years ago when an anticipated grant was not received.

County taxpayers had to help fund REACH with taxpayer money in the amount of approximately $80,000 at that time.

Thereafter, Cannon County Executive Mike Gannon replaced the program’s director and cut costs, changes which brought about REACH being able to come in $13,867.19 under budget during the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

Although the program’s financial situation has improved, county commissioners have still been concerned about how it is being operated and if taxpayers would be asked to continuing funding it in the future.

Some, including Commission Chairman Bob Stoetzel, believed it was against state law for a county to operate an afterschool program. He indicated it was his opinion only a school system could run a program of its nature.

However, at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the commission, it was learned Mike Corley, county attorney, had expressed the opinion that there was nothing in the state’s laws which prohibited a county from operating an afterschool program.

Corley’s opinion satisfied commissioners, who feared a backlash if they decided to terminate REACH.

“I had a child call me today and ask me where we are going to be tomorrow,” Commissioner Kevin George said. “I don’t want to do anything illegal but we can’t throw them (students) on the street with no where to go.”

Commissioner Jim Bush added, “As long as REACH can stand on its own we (commissioners) don’t have a problem.”

The REACH program is currently available at five of the county’s schools. Director Linda Bedwell said she would like to reopen the program at Auburntown and Woodland, but can’t at this time because there are not enough students participating to justify the expense.

Gannon said REACH currently has 27 employees, all of which reside in Cannon County. It is serving at this time 97 elementary school and 47 high school students.

“It is one of the best programs of its kind and it costs the county almost nothing,” Gannon said. “It had one bad year where we had to fund it but it’s paying that money back.”

In addition to deciding to continue the county’s association with REACH, the commissioners approved budget amendments Tuesday allowing it to accept LEAPS and 21st Century grants.

The commission did encourage Bedwell to have the program form a board or directors to provide additional guidance and oversight. It has been operating under an advisory board.


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Members Opinions:
December 14, 2011 at 8:38am
It would be wonderful if REACH or the county could check into filing the correct papers so they could have the tax exempt reinstated. In an earlier article it stated the United Way would no longer be able to make the donation to REACH until the 501(c)3 was completed. This may have alreaady been done and I was not aware of it. It would seem this would be a top priory if not. I believe the prior article stated the former director had not filed the papers correctly. I am sure if this has not been taken care a local accountant or attorney may donate the time to help with this issue. Just a thought.
December 14, 2011 at 9:29am
cherleader...I read the same article, and from my understanding they cannot be awarded grants because of this.I have not heard anything further about whether the status has been put back in place, but from experience it is a huge undertaking to apply for 501(c)3 in the first place, and the organization still has to file tax returns each year to show the government they are not a for profit organization. In order to gain the status back they must come up with the past three years tax reports, and whatever other paperwork needs to be done.

They can still apply for grants, but they may not be awarded because of the lack of a 501(c)3. If I am wrong somebody correct me on this. It is just my understanding from what I have researched.
December 14, 2011 at 10:39am
efisk you are correct that many of the grants REACH could apply for will not consider them because they are not considered tax exempt due to a lack of the 501(c) 3 that they failed to file for.

I know this to be true because I can no longer help them where I work and I have personally talked with representatives from the United Way and they say the same.

Without that 501(c) 3 status the REACH program is losing THOUSANDS of dollars each year that could prevent the county taxpayer from ever having to fund it and could benefit the children of our county.

I have never had a child attend the program, so I am not fully aware of how the program works. Can one of you enlighten me?

Do parents have to pay for their child to attend? If so what is the fee? When does the program start in the afternoon? When does it end at night? Are there background checks run on the 27 employees mentioned above? Who monitors the financial aspects of the program?

In all of my dealings with the REACH program over the years I dealt exclusively with the former director. Up until recently I never knew there was even a board of directors. In this article I now read that it was an advisory board. I agree with the commissioners that there should be a permanent board with transparency in every aspect of the program.

In today's world and especially one that deals with our children we cannot stress the importance of knowing everything about the programs employees, financials and environment.
December 14, 2011 at 12:04pm
REACH has been in operation since 1997, so for 14 years REACH has served hundreds of Cannon County children and it has only cost the County $80,000.00 What a deal!!
James Adkins
December 14, 2011 at 4:15pm
Reach is a great program, and should be at all schools and not just some. They could devide the days up of the week at different sites so all children are equally served. Remember No Child Left Behind Law. yeah right, How can this be looked into.
December 14, 2011 at 5:45pm
My grandson attends the program afternoons when school is out. My daughter pays a fee although hers is reduced due to income. It is a wonderful program and helps our family greatly. They help my grandson with homework, too. He has enjoyed going and my daughter being a single mom of three kids, holding down a job, and starting college soon, needs this program so much. I am so glad to hear that as of this time it will still be up and running. It is a shame that someone has failed to keep up the status to provide thousands of dollars to this program. Seems like whoever is in charge needs to get busy. Thanks to all who are helping to keep it running. After all, there are several kids and parents who really need this service.
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