BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities board members heard concerns from its Treasurer, Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz, Friday afternoon that without the annual $100,000 grant from the Department of Energy that is being withheld, under the present rate of expenditure the RCLC has about 30 months of cash remaining.
Izraelevitz said under normal circumstances the DOE grant would have paid for two-thirds of the expenses for executive director services for last month. Executive director services are performed through a contract with Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) by Eric Vasquez.
“Our DOE grant was about $100,000 a year and we’re still waiting to resolve whether we will receive that grant for this past year or for future years,” Izraelevitz said.
He shared a worksheet showing the board’s usual expenditures and revenue indicating that the budget includes donations from member communities of $112,000 of which only 80 percent has historically been collected. He estimated that the board has some $260,000 on hand.
“Total expenses are about $215,000 a year, so monthly burn rate is about $10,000. It’s a simple calculation to divide $10,000 into $260,000, that means that we have about 24 months until we are at zero cash as an organization, assuming that we continue at our current expenditure and member contributions if we do not have the DOE grant. Even with full contributions, we still have about 30 months of cash left for this institution,” Izraelevitz said.
He said the board’s primary expense is its executive director so he looked to see what is a reasonable dial back of executive director expenses that would keep the RCLC board in balance, presuming that they do not have the DOE grant going forward.
“If we now go to a half-time executive director then we can continue for basically the lifetime of this organization,” Izraelevitz said.
He said the critical issue is that the board needs to resolve relatively quickly whether or not it is going to receive the DOE grant because otherwise the RCLC is not sustainable.
“To be perfectly frank, given these numbers we either have to consider resolution of whether we will receive that grant or not, and either consider reducing our executive director to 50 percent, or if the pleasure of the board is to continue with executive director services, then we only have about two years left in which case I recommend that we use the remaining funds for the orderly dissolution of the RCLC which is not a statement that I would not like to make but is something that as fiduciaries of this organization that we need to consider,” Izraelevitz said.
RCLC Chair Santa Fe County Commissioner Henry Roybal asked if there were any comments from other board members and there were not.
“I appreciate you bringing this forward and giving us the examples of how much time we do have left as far as funding goes. Our decisions are coming rather quickly and we are hoping that we will get the funding back from DOE but it’s something that we have to be prepared for because I would rather be proactive than reactive,” Roybal said.
He noted that he has reached out Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and to Sen. Martin Heinrich’s office.
“I did get some responses that the delegation is going to be setting up a call with DOE-EM and bringing that up so they are grateful that we brought it to their attention. I think we may need to have other elected officials reach out and reiterate their concern about us getting clear direction of whether or not we’re going to get this funding back,” Roybal said. “It’s hard to plan for our future if we don’t know what it’s going to be or the future of the Regional Coalition.”
Executive Director Eric Vasquez interjected that he has been communicating with staff members of the Congressional delegation and that “in particular both our senators” have been regularly communicating with him.
“I mentioned to them that some of our board members may be interested in having that discussion so they volunteered to facilitate scheduling calls with the senators. I spoke with the two senators’ staffs. If any of you were interested, we could probably facilitate that if you don’t have direct access to them,” he said
Izraelevitz said he thought that would be an excellent and appropriate first step.
“I know that Mr. Vasquez has had communications with staff at DOE-EM. I think it would be maybe more impactful if the (RCLC) executive committee at the very least sets up a telephone conference with appropriate personnel at DOE-EM and explains to them the seriousness of the delay and all the steps that we have taken to resolve whatever issues there were with prior years and that really the future of the organization is in their hands,” he said.
Again, there were no comments or questions from board members Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez, Town of Taos Councilor Darien Fernandez, Rio Arriba County Commissioner Leo Jaramillo or Santa Fe City Councilor Michael Garcia.
There was no mention of the letter the RCLC executive committee voted to send in February to the congressional delegation asking them to urge DOE leadership to fully fund the RCLC. At that time, Vasquez indicated that after going back and forth with the delegation, the RCLC had been asked to rewrite the letter to be from the board to the delegation which they could then send to DOE Environmental Management to ask them to answer to it.
The draft letter presented at the February telephonic meeting notes that the RCLC is the region’s local government organization that deals directly with DOE related issues and is asking for assistance in ensuring that the RCLC continues to receive DOE support for funding education and community outreach efforts.
“As many tribal, city and county governments in DOE host communities around the country have done, we have organized ourselves into an advocacy group that can speak on matters that impact our constituents and local communities such as legacy cleanup and economic development,” the letter stated. “The RCLC has worked collaboratively with DOE since its inception in 2011 to the benefit of both DOE and local communities and in 2015 DOE entered into an assistance agreement with the RCLC, providing a grant of $100,000 per year to assist in education and community outreach activities. This funding has become instrumental in the RCLC’s abilities to serve in this role.”
The letter stated that during the spring of 2018, details were uncovered about deficiencies in the RCLC’s internal controls and spending policies. It notes that the coalition has since then taken “deliberate steps to ensure tighter controls around its spending and reimbursement practices” and engaged an independent accountant, an outside auditor and legal counsel with experience in representing organizations that receive federal grants.
“Therefore we are writing to inquire about the status of the DOE grant funding for the RCLC, and ask you, our congressional delegation, to urge DOE leadership to fully fund the RCLC so that we may continue our essential work on behalf of the citizens of northern New Mexico,” the letter concludes.
Chair Roybal directed Vasquez to set up telephone conference calls for board members with the congressional delegation as needed.
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