Committee asks club for transparency

Special to the NEWS

Boys & Girls ClubThe City of San Benito Boys and Girls Club committee is asking for transparency from the club regarding its financial affairs and operational information.

Committee members have recently been reviewing methods to assist the San Benito club, which, according to Boys and Girls Club of San Benito Board of Directors President Tommy Ramirez Jr., is in danger of closing due to lack of funding. Ramirez has said recently that $75,000 is needed to continue the club’s operations, lest it close after three months of exhausting emergency funds.

The committee met Monday evening to discuss matters concerning the club, consisting of City Manager Manuel Lara and City Commissioners Joe D. Gonzalez and Rene Villafranco. The representatives for the club were not present at the time.

One of the matters that the committee is stymied over is that there is no actual information regarding the 2013 budget, officials said.

“We have a lot of blanks in it,” Lara said.

According to committee members, the proposed 2013 budget is projecting no revenue or expenses with most of their assorted programs, notably the football and cheer programs. Also lacking are the expenses for their personnel, members said. Right now, committee members said only the club’s executive director is given a proposed amount of $23,600 for the year.

“We do not know if they are actually cutting it to the bone, or if they are planning to fill in the spaces as the year goes by,” Lara said during the meeting.

Committee members also took issue with the club, a nonprofit organization, seeking financial assistance from the city.

“There is no reason why the Boys and Girls Club should close,” Lara said. “If they promote and if they deliver, they can stay afloat.”

Furthermore, Lara said that during city officials’ research of various clubs on the verge of closing, there have been none in which the city had to step in. Instead, he said, some had to cut down their programs or reduced their operating times.

“Everybody in the Boys and Girls Club knows that it’s a fundraising organization,” Villafranco said. “It takes fundraising to stay afloat.”

Committee members agreed to seek from club representatives, in writing, whatever measures have been taken to acquire the $75,000 needed before the next regular City Commission meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, March 5.

“In order to make a sound decision,” Lara said, “we have to answer to the public. It should to be transparent. Tell us what you need, show us your records of how you’re managing the budget, how it’s supposed to be managed. That is all we ask.”

Since word of the club’s financial woes made headlines, residents, businesses and organizations have responded with events held to raise money for the club. Such efforts included a garage sale held at The Warehouse in San Benito, a Zumbathon event held inside the club’s gym, a baseball and softball tournament held at Stookey Park and a benefit dance featuring Grupo Retoño at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

Upcoming events organized to raise money for the club include a dog pageant at the Heavin Resaca Trail on March 9 and a roller derby exhibition match featuring the South Texas Rolleristas at the club pavilion on March 23.

Read this story in the Feb. 27 edition of the San Benito News, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.

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    • Reforming San Benito on March 2, 2013 at 12:37 pm
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    Let’s take it a step further, create a committee (Winter Texan Advisory Committee?) made up of — what else — Winter Texans. These persons of diverse backgrounds, who make up a significant portion of our economy, could meet during the 4-5 months they are in town to discuss and propose ideas and solutions to, not only our inherent community problems, but ideas on how we can grow and attract more Winter Texans to our area and their considerable resources.

    With the internet and SBNews online, these folks probably already keep abreast of the issues of our community even during the seasons they are not here. Imagine the potential benefits to our community their contributions could have on our economy and growth. They leave us to return to their homes, when, April?..May? They could leave behind their recommendations with the city and the city would have time to review and incorporate feasible recommendations into the city’s budget by September. Who knows, their connections outside this community might be willing to bring in new businesses to our city if such a harmonious, constructive relationship existed.

    I’m sure everyone remembers the water tap debacle. Think of how the negativity played out so publicly surrounding that entire situation might have been avoided if such a committee existed. The city, once presented with the idea by the Utility Board, could have sought the input of the WTA before going public, and the city and committee could have worked together quietly and constructively to seek solutions to both parties’ needs and concerns.

    Fedup used the term “resources.” Drawing on reference to a comment I made the other day about community leaders, think of all of the “precious resources” that exist in this community that are not being called on and utilized for the betterment of our community. Winter Texans are just such a precious resource.

    • Fedup on March 1, 2013 at 11:58 pm
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    That is an outstanding idea by Ms Rebecca S. Our Winter Texan friends come from diversed, extensive backgrounds. It would behoove our city & school officials to benchmark with them and utilize their educational fortes. There is much to be gained here, I hope and pray our elected officials reach out to these precious resources that are available to them!!!

    • Esther on March 1, 2013 at 8:53 pm
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    That’s a great idea! Im sure our friends at Fun n Sun, who are registered voters, would love to attend such forum. As citizens, we should all keep ourselves informed of all business, school and city, and be actively involved in at least one community organization. We need good people that truly care, running our city and district. People that have no agendas and that don’t owe anyone a darn thing. Hope to see this forum come to life.

    • Rebecca S on March 1, 2013 at 1:41 pm
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    Mr. Editor, could the SB News host a forum of city and school district topics? As winter texans who stay here for several months we would like to be informed. Your newspaper is the only way we can. Many of us, like my husband, are educated professional people who would like to be involved here in San Benito. Could you look into doing that sir?

    • Alvin on March 1, 2013 at 1:38 pm
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    Where is the “I am the King” mayor in all of this? I know of people who have volunteered to serve on committees but no one ever calls them. They want to be involved citizens and hoped with the former supt. now a commissioner they would ask but NO. Why not? Because they do not want anyone else to know or show any transparency in what they the City is doing. The value of my homes and my family homes is going down down. Will one of these commissioners get yourself away from your “friends” and try to make some NEW FRIENDS?

  1. If its my taxpayers money going to help this entity,and I know its for the children of SAN BENITO, give it to them!! I would’nt mind it at all. Let the people vote on it. Ask the people if the tax payers monies in the future “China vacation funds” is the monies they want to be used to help the B&GC and I guarantee you we’ll vote YES!!!

    • AMAZING on February 28, 2013 at 5:52 pm
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    It’s amazing to me that without FACTS some people still feel that their comments should be heard.
    FACT: Tommy Ramirez did send the ACTUAL numbers of all Revenues and Expenses for the Boys and Girls Club 2012 Fiscal Year which began JANUARY 1, 2012 and ended DECEMBER 31, 2012. FACT: The single month’s statements and budget information was also sent and was as current as the beginning of this Fiscal Year which began JANUARY 1, 2013. FACT: Audits, tax records, completed and on-going fundraising efforts along with the up-to-date revenues for those fundraisers were provided and when asked for were current. FACT: The Boys and Girls Club has a SINGLE EMPLOYEE. FACT: Boys and Girls Club representation was NOT present at Committee Meetings because they were only notified 15-20 MINUTES PRIOR to the meeting beginning. FACT: Federal Grants, Local Grants, State Grants, and any other entity you must apply for to obtain funds from asked for 3 things; Proposed Budget, Audit, and Tax Records.

    Now I ask you this, why is the city still requesting more information regarding the Club and it’s finances when they have done nothing but given the city exactly what they asked for and as current as their fiscal year is, which I may remind you, began January 1, 2013.

    On a side note, why is the city wanting to know exactly where, who, and how much the donations are that the club receives.

    I believe there is a hidden agenda behind what the city commissioners are doing. But that is just an OPINION!

      • Ruben on March 1, 2013 at 3:14 am
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      Can anyone say “NEW FIRE STATION FOR THE WEST SIDE”.

      • Bobby Oso on March 5, 2013 at 8:24 am
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      Since when has a fiscal year started On January 1st???

        • Bobby Oso on March 5, 2013 at 8:31 am
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        I’m pretty sure that every business, school district, city government, and non-profit organization, whom receive “federal monies”, also known as, “grants”, all have the same fiscal year, if not, right around the same time as the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Why would the BGC start their fiscal year on January 1st, knowing that they receive their money anywhere near the months of September and October?

    • Donde Esta? on February 28, 2013 at 2:38 pm
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    Notice how Mayor Joe Hernandez has suddenly gone silent.

    He is always involved in all the committees and EDC. However, he seems to not be involved in the committee to decide whether to finance the boys and girls club. If the committee elects to not fund the club, he can always claim it was the committee’s decision.

    I guess he is looking forward to getting re-elected next year.

    Mr. Editor should interview him and get his opinion on the funding for the boys and girls club.

    He certainly had no problem voicing his opinion HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

    • Bobby Oso on February 28, 2013 at 9:50 am
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    I honestly think that the BGC is being mismanaged. If the Club has to turn to outside staff (Ramirez’ staff) then something is going on. Before this management, there was never any involvement from this kind of help. I feel that this B.O.Ds are too lazy. I keep reading that the Director of the Club keeps getting his salary cut so there could be more funding. Why don’t they cut the position entirely? What is the purpose of having him, if he has not been the one to be communicating with the media? Ask him question about the Club’s problems. Ask him about his opinion. They need to do more work to fundraise. They need to learn to look for and apply for grants. I’m more than sure that they are not. They are relying too much on the City, SBCISD, and corporate to do all the work for them. I know that the economy is down, but there is always money for causes like this. In just a few clicks of the BGCA website I found this link that describes what the purpose a Club is and it also shows what companies contribute to the BGCA. Maybe the BGCSB should send a message to these companies and ask for help. The worst that can happen is that they will say NO. So B.O.Ds get up, go out and ask for help.

      • WeThePeople on March 1, 2013 at 11:53 am
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      Good point! There didn’t seem to be many problems until this guy showed up! One recent comment about Ramirez was that he is a ‘bag of wind’. The tax returns may not tell the whole story.

    • TwoCentsWorth on February 28, 2013 at 9:02 am
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    Reforming San Benito: Good idea about Mr. Ramirez submitting the documents to SB News. But, assure us that what he provides the SB News is exactly what he provided the city. I don’t think you’d be willing to go out on that proverbial limb. I’ve read your previous comments and I agree with your opinion that the Chamber should not be funded by the city. If the Chamber is working properly, the dues from local businesses should more than cover its expenses. What you are proposing, however, is that since the chamber is funded by the city (a wrong), the B&G Club should also be funded (another wrong). Sorry, but two wrongs just don’t make it right. By the way, at $25 per year per child (registration fees) equals 10 cents per day per child . . . simply too low to sustain the club. Club officials think raising the fees would be a hardship for parents–give me a break.

  2. Ruben is right fund the club and the children’s future.The City Manager talks about TRANSPERANCY didn’t he get fired from MATHIS for misuse of funds.The trip to CHINA was nothing more than a vacation and didn’t the the CITY MANAGER take his gilfriend along for the ride.All I see in the CITY ADMINISTRATION IS CORRUPTION.Good luck to us all we are going to need it.

    • Reforming San Benito on February 27, 2013 at 7:11 pm
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    Tommy Ramirez, if you are saying you possess and provided all the documents the city is asking for, please take them to the SBNews so they can be independently verified. I am in favor of the city using tax dollars to benefit the families and children of this community, but only if those dollars are benefitting the families and kids. I am not in favor of donating tax dollars to an entity that misuses those dollars, or is irresponsible or poorly managed. Please make the documents public, Mr. Ramirez, so the public knows who is in the right.

    I do tend to agree with Mr. Ramirez, though, when he asserts that the city is looking for a reason not to fund the B&G Club. I do believe that for years the Chamber of Commerce’s finances would not have held up to the standards that the city is now (conveniently?) imposing on the club. The city was blindly giving the Chamber nearly $5,000/month until recently, when the public’s backlash made it impossible to keep funding them. The city NEEDS to recoup the funds from the Chamber it was providing since Mr. Padilla resigned in June or July, 2012 and give it to the B&G Club. Six months? That’s almost $30,000 of lost money that the city can provide the kids and not have to take it from anywhere else in the budget.

      • WeThePeople on February 28, 2013 at 10:47 am
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      Good point! The SB News could give an accurate accounting of the so-called ‘missing’ or incomplete documents. In fact, they should go to both parties and ask for them!

    • Mister X on February 27, 2013 at 7:08 pm
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    Ruben, can we point to anytime either IS for the kids? I did not think so either.

    • Jim k on February 27, 2013 at 5:08 pm
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    Ruben is right. This city and school district are not for kids.

    • Ruben on February 27, 2013 at 4:09 pm
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    Typical Response from this administration, PUNISH THE KIDS for someone else’s mistakes or errors.
    “TRANSPERANCY” say’s the City Manager, PLEASE! Where is it, in this administration? The trip to China still hasn’t produced any NEW BUSINESS VENTURES. Please take note what Commisioner J. Gonzales commented, suddenly a new idea, “ACCOUNTABILITY”. Where was it when employed with the SBCISD?
    This BUNCH is really drawing some attention to itself. FUND THE CLUB, and then go after what needs fixin!

    • DelaSera on February 27, 2013 at 3:58 pm
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    It would be a shame if the BG Club were to shut down. THe community is responding but without the support of National, they will close down and city funds will be matched. City officials need to Spell it out, What do they expect from the Club and comply. Sure if they only provided a month, it is not complete. If that is a fact.

    • Denny Crane, Jr. on February 27, 2013 at 1:40 pm
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    Congratulations and please accept a grateful thanks to Fun N Sun RV Park residents and HEB for supporting the local Boys and Girls Club. Hopefully more private members of the business community come forward with their support.

    The important difference to remember about financial support from the city is that it involves “public funds” or “taxpayer dollars” and not “private funds”. Therefore, it is the city official’s fiscal and financial responsibility to conduct their research and financial analysis of any organization subject to receive public taxpayer dollars.

    If Mr. Ramirez or members of the board of directors are under the impression that the organization is not required to release the organization’s current financial status reports or IRS filings, they are seriously mistaken. They are also subjecting the organization to an IRS audit. Trust me, they are watching.

    Access on demand from the public to view a nonprofit corporation’s books and records are not only required by the IRS but also by the Texas Public Information Act (chapter 552) of the Texas Government Code.

    Sad to say it but if the citizens of San Benito want more accountability they need to elect a new slate of elected officials in the school district and city hall.

    Otherwise, the compadrismo and status quo prevalent in the city will forever define San Benito as the small town between Harlingen and Brownsville.

      • WeThePeople on February 27, 2013 at 6:37 pm
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      Agreed Mr. Crane! The Texas Public Information Act also allows for citizens to look into the City government, although few ever do.
      I do disagree with one thing that you said…The term ‘compadrismo’ doesn’t quite describe the City and School District politics. It goes much deeper. The words graft and corruption comes to mind.

    • TwoCentsWorth on February 27, 2013 at 11:50 am
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    In speaking with a city committee member, it seems the committee asked for a year’s worth of budget income/expenditures and received a single month’s worth of info. Ramirez makes it sound as if the club has overwhelmed the city with budgets, tax reccords and bank statements. Not so!! Where there’s smoke, there’s FIRE.

      • WeThePeople on February 27, 2013 at 2:27 pm
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      Agreed TwoCents…the question remains, Whose smoke?

    • WeThePeople on February 27, 2013 at 10:55 am
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    According to recent statements to the media, president of the club’s board of directors, Tommy Ramirez, said the non-profit organization has provided the city with budgets, audits, tax records and bank statements.
    “They’re looking for an excuse not to fund us,” Ramirez said. “I think they’re giving us the run-around. ”

    Quote from City Manager: “We have a lot of blanks in it,” Lara said.

    Since the B/G Club is a charity there should be no ‘blanks’, and their ‘books’ should be open to inspection.

    As Struther Martin said in <i.Cool Hand Luke: “What we got here is a failure to communicate.”

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