|By Justin Sondel, Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, N.Y.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Representatives from the city's largest provider of services to the poor and homeless say it started a few years ago when they were forced to make a difficult decision: Use funds on hand to meet the organization's tax obligations or continue to provide meals, shelter and counseling to needy individuals in
Officials from Community Missions say they chose the latter, eventually leading to the organization falling behind on taxes owed to the
"We felt we were forced into a choice," said the organization's longtime Executive Director
The tax situation also has had a direct impact on Krueger herself.
Documents on file with
Krueger said she was well aware of the possible outcome of choosing to continue providing services instead of paying the Missions' taxes, but pressed on anyhow.
"Every CEO knows that's the risk," she said.
Krueger and members of her board admit Community Missions is still at risk of having to reduce services. Agency officials also contend that they have a plan in place to regain financial stability. The organization has already cut staff, sold off property and pursued additional grants to keep itself afloat. Missions' officials hope an infusion of
Krueger said Community Missions' officials chose not to go public with their struggles earlier because they thought they could make it through without asking for assistance.
"You try to do the best you can," Krueger said. "Everybody's struggling."
Representatives said there were several major changes that resulted in the organization's financial dilemma.
First was a change in funding policy from the
Krueger said that the changes, which require the organization to bill
"There was a huge learning curve for our staff and consumers," she said.
And during the adjustment period, which lasted the better part of a year, the organization was losing upward of
"Unfortunately, there was very little funding to help you transition," she said.
The organization appealed to the state for additional funding to help with the transition as the problems mounted, but was rebuffed each time with agency officials saying there was no money available and that the changes being implemented were meant as cost-cutting measures, Krueger said.
"OMH provided start-up funding to all new PROS programs and offers continued technical assistance to all PROS program providers," Rosen said. "OMH will continue to provide technical assistance to Community Missions of Niagara Frontier to help them ensure that their PROS program remains a viable resource for the residents of
Rosen said the purpose of the changes was to help providers offer better services in a more cost-efficient manor.
While that transition period pushed the agency into the financial situation in which it now finds itself the program has come through the the required changes and is now self-sufficient again, Krueger said.
"That program is capable of supporting itself now," she said.
Also in 2011, the trust that managed the organization's worker's compensation insurance -- CRISP -- was dissolved after being deemed insolvent by the state.
As a result Community Missions was required to begin paying into the state's insurance system, Krueger said.
The state's Worker's Compensation Board took over all of the trusts accounts and held those employers liable for underpayment made to the board on their behalf. Community Missions owed
Krueger said that number has grown since as the state's forensic auditors have continued to examine the trust's numbers.
"Each year, they rethought and reassessed what we owed," Krueger said.
Big red number 2018 Year by which Community Missions is scheduled to have
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