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Published: Saturday, 2/22/2014 - Updated: 10 months ago

HOMELESSNESS

Homeless board still in arrears repaying $98,000

Self-imposed deadline with city missed

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Bonnington Bonnington
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The Toledo-Lucas County Homelessness Board missed a self-appointed deadline to repay the city of Toledo $98,000.

Officials with the county board, which oversees shelters and services for homeless people, said in November that the money could not be found and they wanted forgiveness for the debt.

They later said the money turned up and would be handed over to the city by Feb. 15.

Now, Tom Bonnington, the homelessness board’s executive director, said he is waiting for the city to reimburse the board about $30,000 of federal money that it is owed before the $98,000 can be repaid.

He did not explain why the board couldn’t simply pay the city the balance of $68,000.

“Part of the stipulation was the city of Toledo has money. They have to reimburse us,” Mr. Bonnington said. “It got hung up in the the city’s accounting system. It was for funds we had put out for rental assistance.”

Since 2009, taxpayers have fronted the agency $700,000 for homelessness prevention.

Ultimately, the board was supposed to repay that in total to the city but only sent $602,000, former Toledo Neighborhoods Director Lourdes Santiago said when asked to explain why the agency owed the $98,000.

Mr. Bonnington, who took over as executive director in mid-2013, blamed accounting methods for the error. He said the agency pays property owners rent for homeless people or people in danger of becoming homeless.

Reimbursements for those rents either did not come quickly enough or pending reimbursements were not accounted for, he said.

Tom Kroma, Toledo neighborhoods director, said he is evaluating the city’s relationship with the homelessness board. He previously said the misplaced $98,000 was caused by “accounting errors and overspending, not someone taking money.”

In an email this week to Mayor D. Michael Collins, Mr. Kroma said: “We had several payments to the [homelessness board] for other services that were delayed in the [accounting] system … This has been resolved so the [homelessness board] will be in a cash flow position to reimburse us the funds, likely by the end of next week.”

Additionally, the board is facing an $18,000 budget shortfall this year that it plans to make up by requiring its four full-time employees and one part-time employee to take 17 unpaid furlough days.

The board’s 2014 budgeted expenses are $320,000 but its expected revenues are $302,000.

Deb Conklin, the group’s former executive director, was a part-time employee of the board.

Mr. Bonnington is the board’s first full-time executive director and receives a $65,000 salary — $30,000 more than Ms. Conklin’s $35,000 part-time salary.

The homelessness board has been battered by poor relations with shelters and an audit that found cash-management problems.

“During the audit period, the organization had not implemented a cash-management system to ensure compliance with the 15-day rule relating to prompt disbursement of funds and had not drawn down funds and not expended less than $5,000 within 15 days of the drawn down [funds],” the audit states.

The homelessness board and the neighborhoods department under former Mayor Mike Bell were criticized for their roles in deciding federal allocations for Toledo shelters.

The city gets the federal money, the homelessness board is the subrecipient, and shelters are sub-subrecipients.



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