By Heidi Zemach for SCN
HB 75, repealing the audit requirement for organizations participating in Pick.Click.Give, an option on your Permanent Dividend Fund application, will have its first hearing at 8:00 a.m. this Thursday in the House State Affairs Committee.
Dana Paperman, director of the Seward Senior Center, will be testifying, and paying close attention to the progress of this bill, sponsored by our former Representative Paul Seaton, R, Homer.
Currently the Alaska Statute requires all organizations with a total annual budget that exceeds $250,000 to have a financial audit by a CPA in order to participate in the Pick.Click.Give program. Seaton’s constituents and statewide with budgets just over $250,000 have reported that they would need to spend $7,000-$15,000 on an audit, which creates an unreasonable bar to small organizations being listed in the program.
The Seward Senior Center was a recipient of Pick.Click.Give for its first three years and watched their donations increase exponentially as Alaskans came to know and understand how the program work, Paperman said. In the first year the center received $600. In the next year contributions rose to $1,200, and in the third year to $1,700.
But three years ago the center’s budget passed the $250,000 limit so the board of directors decided not to participate in the program as it would mean paying $7,000-$15,000 for a CPA audit. The result is that the program has no longer been listed with the program.
“We were starting to gain ground then- shucks!” Paperman said. So she went to Seaton for help. He sponsored a bill last session to repeal the CPA audit provision, and although it went through its various committees, and garnered support, it failed to pass when the legislative session ran out of time.
This year he’s trying again with HB75. It’s essentially the same bill as last year, but it has a couple of amendments that were added, including one that requires University of Alaska groups to pay the regular $250 fee to participate.
“This bill does not remove financial accountability for nonprofits,” Seaton stated in his constituent newsletter. “The program still requires all participants to file the IRS form 990, a rigorous annual filing requirement that every tax-exempt organization must submit to the IRS to retain their tax-exempt status. All participating organizations must disclose detailed financial information, program services, tax compliance, governance practices and management policies, and the 990 IRS form is public record.”
“ …I believe this high standard of accountability to the public is sufficient proof for the State to ensure equal access to the program by all nonprofits, regardless of budget size, rather than the additional financial burden of a CPA audit,” Seaton said.
Paperman agrees. She hopes to testify at the hearing from Seward Thursday morning. She has many letters in hand, written by local supporters of the bill.
Other supporters of the bill include several groups statewide that find themselves in a similar position. They include the Ninilchik and Sterling Senior Centers, Homer Council on the Arts, Ketchikan Arts Council, Juneau Arts Council, and Literacy Council of Alaska, said Heather Beggs, Seaton’s staff representative.
The Senior Center program is vital to many area seniors who depend on the center for nutritional hot meals, meals on wheels, socialization, exercise, education, and transportation. It serves about 130 seniors each year including providing on average 40 people hot meals daily, and some 10 meals-on-wheels clients. These days the center is fundraising to purchase a more efficient van.
The public is welcome to testify from the Seward Legislative Information Office. Or watch the proceedings online at alaskalegislative.tv. It may also be broadcast live via the public access television station on 360 North (360North.org)