By Craig Westcott | The Irish Loop Post
Bay Bulls councillors Evelyn Tucker and Joan Luby are firing back at the head of the BBBAA for statements they feel questioned their ability to understand financial statements and their support for the regional recreation group.
Luby and Tucker say the dispute with Bay Bulls to Bauline Athletic Association president Scott Penney dates back to July 10 when Penney and two other members of his board came to council out of the blue looking for an additional $30,000 in funding for its After School program.
The dispute has nothing to do with the town's ongoing annual contribution of $37,000 to the BBBAA for a recreation director and her assistant, said Tucker.
Rather, Tucker said, Penney told council that the After School program run out of the Bay Bulls Regional Lifestyle Centre was losing money because of busing costs and other reasons and that the BBBAA had been subsidizing it for years with funds raised at its annual auction.
BBBAA board members Andy Walsh and Karl Tee accompanied Penney, who did almost on the talking, said Tucker.
"They came looking for 30,000," said Tucker. "We were like, 'No...,' and he said, 'Okay, we will go to the Town of Witless Bay and look for $15,000, if you'll give us $15,000. If the Town of Witless Bay won't give us $15,000, we won't request $15,000 from you. We'll stop the program."
Tucker said Penney told council the After School program had lost $35,000 a year for the past three years, in part because some people availing of the program can't afford to pay for it. "He said, 'We don't turn anybody away,'" Tucker said. "We said, 'Fair enough.'"
The council in Witless Bay considered the BBBAA's request and ultimately rejected it. Bay Bulls council agreed to contribute some $6,000 to make sure the program was able to start up again in September.
"They said if they didn't get the money by the 1st of August and let the parents know that they were going to shut it down, they were shutting it down," said Tucker.
"That was two weeks to (decide)," said Luby.
"And we were like, 'Oh my God, this can't shut down, too many parents depend on it,'" said Tucker. "It's a service that draws people to the community."
The request, and Penney's demand that council agree to the payment by August 1 rankled them, Luby and Tucker maintain, and so they used an Access to Information Request to obtain the organization's financial statements. Rather than providing "boxes and boxes" of material as Penney claimed in the last edition of the Irish Loop Post, Tucker said, they received three documents.
When they got those documents, there was no indication the After School program was losing $35,000 a year. Instead, the financial statements reported that the BBBAA made a small profit of $3,534 on the program in 2015, lost nearly $13,000 in 2016 and made a small profit again last year of some $4,817. In 2017 the program’s reported revenue was $85,882 while its expenses were listed as totalling $81,065.
"So how is that $35,000 in the hole?" asked Tucker. "It's distasteful for somebody to say something like that when there is proof otherwise."
But before they got those numbers, Luby and Tucker say, they were struck by what seemed the incongruity of the BBBAA giving away money in donations to other programs, projects and communities while losing money overall because of the After School program.
"I don't have any issue with them donating to any of the other organizations," Tucker said. "We're all communities and we all work together... But when you come to us looking for money, there has to be more accountability… I don't have any issue with any other aspect of what the BBBAA does, only the After School program. I was trying to get to the bottom of why this program was running $35,000 in the hole."
Tucker said the After School program services seven communities. "What they're asking is for two communities (Bay Bulls and Witless Bay) to subsidize a program that serves seven," Tucker argued. "The people of Bay Bulls subsidize that Lifestyle Centre as it is... There's a portion of my dollars, that I pay in taxes, that goes to support that lifestyle centre.”
Tucker admitted the BBBAA does pay rent on the space it uses for the After School program, which is a benefit to the town.
Tucker said Penney told them the BBBAA will know by December if it can make a go of the After School program this year. She said she hopes it continues. "I for one know the value of it," she said. "I have a grandson, who is not in that one but is in one in Witless Bay and it is an absolutely wonderful program. It's not just the fact that your child is taken care of by quality people, it's not just the social aspect of it. It's not daycare."
In the meantime, the BBBAA has made some changes to its After School program, Tucker said, which seems to have made it more efficient, something she applauded.
Tucker said she also supports the overall objectives of the BBBAA itself, noting she was a member of the organization herself years ago. "This BBBAA relieves a lot of stress on the town (recreation wise)," Tucker said. "They do an absolutely wonderful job... But still someone has to be accountable."