We have been quite critical of the Retired Volunteer Service Program and Willoughby-Eastlake schools for their lack of candor when answering our questions about their program. Our questions started last year when we discovered that RSVP had received $744,000 over six years from the Lake County Senior Levy. We wanted to be sure that they were being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money. Let us tell you what we have discovered, without the assistance of Steve Thompson, the Willoughby-Eastlake school superintendent and Cristen Kane, Director of RSVP. We will then let Lake County taxpayers decide if they are being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money.
What is RSVP? I was told by Cristen Kane that they are an employment agency for seniors in Lake County. If a Senior citizen wants to volunteer, then RSVP will try to match their talents and interests with the needs of “non-profits” in the area. They provide a great deal of help to the Lake County Council on Aging, but although we have asked for statistics, we have never been told how many hours they provide.
In 1974, the Willoughby-Eastlake school system applied for a federal grant and have maintained the RSVP program since that time. (Comment: We have yet to have anyone justify why this, in any way, is the responsibility of the W-E school system. It seems to us that they have exceeded their mission of educating the children of their district.)
RSVP receives funding from federal government grants, state subsidies, and the Lake County Senior Levy. They receive more funding from the Senior Levy than all of the senior centers except for the Mentor Senior Center. We had asked RSVP for a complete accounting of the $744,000 received from the Senior Levy, but we never received that information. What was initially sent to us by Cristen Kane, was viewed by me as a “total lack of candor” by Ms. Kane. Mr. Steve Thompson did leave a voice mail message indicating that he would meet with me, but when I returned his call and asked for a meeting date and time, he never returned my call. When I tried to reach out to a W-E school board member, the initial enthusiasm to help arrange a meeting, suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, dried up. (Comment: We are not really free when our voices are silenced. Willoughby-Eastlake school’s unwillingness to provide the taxpayers with a complete accounting for the money received from the federal, state and local governments should concern all taxpayers. Lake County citizens should be outraged by a political sub-division that thumbs their nose at taxpayers.)
After months of asking, we finally did get an accounting for the years 2016 and 2017 from the Lake County commissioners for reimbursements made from the Senior Levy. However, we cannot be sure that there has been a total accounting for ALL funds received since RSVP would not share that information with the taxpayers. The following information was gleaned from the reports received from the County Administrator:
There are two full-time employees at RSVP, and both are employed by the Willoughby-Eastlake school system and are eligible for a teacher’s pension, and receive medical insurance. (Comment: Why are they eligible for a school employee’s pension?)
There is also one part-time employee. Here is a copy of a partial payroll report given to us by the Lake County Administrator. RSVP Payroll
Here are schedules showing payments made for retirement and medical insurance to the employees.
So what does the school get out of this? Well, without reports from the school, it is really difficult to say.
We can say that on 3/29/16 the Willoughby-Eastlake school district was paid $7,640.00 as an “administrative fiscal fee” from RSVP. We were told by the County Administrator that the school waived the fee in 2018.
We noticed that each year there is over $5,000 paid for an annual party at the LaMalfa Party Center. Although it is a nice gesture, it really becomes a photo op for certain Lake County politicians. That $5,000 would pay for ~1,000 meals with the County Meals-on Wheels program.
(Comment: If this program has been in existence since 1974, how many “administrative fees” have been paid to the Willoughby-Eastlake school district? This is a prime example of federal spending run amok, with little or no accountability. It is only in the last two years that the County Commissioners have insisted on a “reimbursement” system, where RSVP must turn in receipts to get reimbursed by the County out of the Senior Levy funds.
We have made the following suggestions to the Lake County Commissioners and County Administrator:
1. A volunteer program could be managed by a volunteer. No need to pay wages, pensions, medical insurance for a select few.
2. The volunteer program could be folded into the existing volunteer program currently operated by the Lake County Council on Aging. They are already set up to handle volunteers and, no doubt, many of RSVP volunteers are also working with the Council on Aging. The Council’s website should be able to display the volunteer positions needed to be filled.
If the Willoughby-Eastlake school district still wishes to eat at the federal and state government trough, then we suggest that they forgo the local funds that they receive from the Senior Levy. In our opinion, they have not been honest or transparent with taxpayers of Lake County. This falls in line with their approach of using emergency levies for their school funding. Taxpayers do not realize that emergency funding may result in automatic increases in their property taxes, if funding should decrease from other sources, such as the Perry Plant devaluation.)