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TLC allowed cash to pay staff

Aug 31 2012

Bank accounts belonging to The Land Conservancy frozen this month by Canada Revenue Agency because of unpaid taxes have now been partially unfrozen to allow the cashstrapped organization to pay its staff.

"We have some arrears there that we are struggling with, but we do feel we have a solution in sight. They have lifted the freeze somewhat so we can pay staff," said TLC board treasurer Gary Holman.

Holman, who would not say how much the group owes, said a $23,000 cheque to the CRA was also caught in the freeze.

The organization said part of the money owed is Goods and Services Tax arrears from a property transaction and the remainder is employee tax arrears.

TLC has reduced the number of staff from about 50 two years ago to 12 full-time equivalents. Most laid-off staff have agreed to work off their severance, although, for some, vacation pay is still due, Holman said.

Although layoffs will save money in the long term, there are short-term, up-front costs, said Holman, adding that there is still "considerable cash flow coming into the organization."

Operating costs have been reduced by more than half over the past two years and are now consistent with conservative revenue projections, he said.

Briony Penn, vicechairwoman of the TLC board, said the group is talking with other conservation organizations about the possibility of passing properties over to them.

"We have known for some time our options are very limited, so we are having conversations over the next month with some of these organizations," she said.

The need for further clarity about options is the main reason the annual general meeting has been postponed to Nov. 3 from September, Penn said.

TLC, which once would buy properties and raise money afterward, is now living within its means, Penn said.

"We preach sustainability, but we haven't been practising it," she said.

It was not the much-criticized mortgages, but the number of staff that drew the organization into financial crisis during the economic downturn, when promised donations failed to materialize, Penn said.

Both Holman and Penn believe TLC survive, provided it can retain public support and weather the storms until the end of the year.

"There's a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's a short tunnel," Holman said.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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