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GUEST COLUMN: Mullis Center finances explained

  • Written by Stephen Shubert

This guest column by Stephen Shubert, Chair of Mullis Community Senior Center District Committee explains recent amendments to Mullis Senior Center tax forms. 

TO: The San Juan Island Community FROM: Stephen Shubert, Chair of Mullis Community Senior Center District Committee

You may have seen a recent message sent from a group calling itself Friends of Mullis Center, accusing the Mullis Community Senior Center of possible financial mismanagement. I wish to provide the facts related to this accusation.

In 2020, Mullis Center’s financial records, and the subsequent amending of previous tax returns for the Senior Services Council of San Juan County (SSCSJC) corporation was a necessary and legitimate financial correction to a clerical error. The funds in question were granted to the Seattle Foundation and as the owner of the funds, they manage them according to the wishes and goals of the donor and provide a portion of the funds to the Mullis Center, as they are needed, to be used in the service of seniors and disabled on San Juan Island. These conditions are stated in the agreements between the Mullis Center and the Seattle Foundation and the correction to our financial records was made under the advisement of the Council’s CPA.

Many islanders do not understand how the Islands’ Senior Centers interrelate and how the contracts held by the SSCSJC function. It was assumed that each Center is independent, but they are not. The all-important 501(C)3 incorporation is held by the SSCSJC and each District Committee sends three members to participate on the board of SSCSJC. All grant and contract funds can only be pursued or acquired under the SSCSJC.

Our Senior Centers operate on the basis of community donations, fundraisers, and fees charged for program and space rental. It should be noted that through the generous support of the Mullis Family (land and operating funds) and other community benefactors, the Mullis Center has a large endowment. An important operating principal in non-profits is to limit the use of endowment funds to the dividends generated annually and not spend the capital that generates it. Rules regarding these funds were analyzed and policies are in place to guide their use. In fact, recent accusations accusing Mullis Center, and the SSCSJC, of possible financial mismanagement reflect this lack of understanding.

As Chair of the Mullis Senior Community Center since 2019, I am responsible for the activities, policies and direction the Mullis Center has taken, with the full support of the District Committee and the Senior Services Council of San Juan County (SSCSJC). I have over 35 years’ executive non-profit management experience, primarily in community-based medicine as Executive Director, Program Manager, Development Director, and grant writer. I know how the nonprofit world works and I have brought that experience to bear in my role as District Committee Chair.

In 2019, we recognized that the three Seniors Centers, and the Corporation, had accounting structures that suited each individual entity, but these did not match when put together, as required by the IRS. This resulted in multiple errors, and other problems, when filing reports to the IRS and other governmental agencies, required under the SSCSJC 501(c)3. The leadership of the Centers and the SSCSJC, with guidance from our CPA and outside consultants, undertook re-structuring and aligning the chart of accounts to eliminate the sources of error while leaving each center with the flexibility to allocate funds as they saw fit. This system has been functioning for the past 19 months without problems and reports are accurately filed on time.

Those who volunteer their time, as District Committee members do, are working hard to improve efficiencies in management, processes, services and upgrading our facilities to meet the increasing needs of San Juan Islanders. It is time to move forward and get on with the business of meeting the needs of seniors and disabled persons who reside on our islands. You can find more information about our work at www.mulliscenter.org.

 

Last modified onTuesday, 28 September 2021 01:36