Tip Jar gaming funds distributed

January 27, 1997


Staff Writer

Fifty-two charities and nonprofit organizations in Washington County shared $416,087 in tip jar earnings Monday, but The Maryland Theatre wasn't one of them.

Officials with the financially troubled theater had asked for $234,388 to pay for refurbishing some areas of the historic building, according to Washington County Gaming Commission records.

Under a gaming law approved last year by Maryland's General Assembly, the gaming commission collects proceeds from tip jars and twice a year makes disbursements from those funds. Forty percent of the money goes to the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association. The rest is given to Washington County charities and nonprofit organizations.


Organizations may file requests with the gaming commission to be considered for funding.

Gaming commission Chairwoman Sue Tuckwell said Monday that requests larger than $15,000 aren't considered.

Acting theater director Patricia Wolford said she didn't realize there was a $15,000 limit when the theater's application was made.

Tuckwell also said the theater failed to provide required financial information.

Tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations are required to file information, including tax returns using IRS Form 990.

Tuckwell said the commission won't consider applications that don't submit financial information from the most recent year. Information submitted for the theater was from June 1995, Tuckwell said.

"They never told me that," said Wolford. "All I have is a letter requesting me to send them something again in May."

"They did not comply with the requirements for the application," said commission member Paul Muldowney, who encouraged the theater to reapply for funds to be disbursed in the future.

"But do it with a little forethought," he said. "Don't just wait until the last minute and drop something off and expect it to be accepted with open arms."

Wolford said the theater's most recent tax form was dated June 1995 because the theater changed its fiscal year to end Dec. 31, beginning in 1996. The theater has 90 days after that to submit the form to the IRS, Wolford said.

Wolford also said the theater didn't apply for money to help offset a $130,000 mortgage payment due in May because she thought the commission funded only capital improvements. But Tuckwell said there are no such restrictions on how the money may be spent.

"We feel badly that we had to disqualify their application," Tuckwell said. "As a former president of The Maryland Theatre, it pains me that they did not meet the requirements."

Wolford said she plans to ask the theater's building committee to break down the $234,388 renovation project into smaller blocks. But Wolford said no part of the renovation was likely to be cheaper than $15,000. "Even our bathroom project upstairs is $50,000," she said.

Meanwhile, the gaming commission exempted the United Way from the $15,000 limit, giving the agency $27,179.

The United Way receives 3 percent of funds available after the fire companies take their share, or $12,482. But the gaming commission gave the agency an additional $14,697, "because they needed it," Muldowney said.

United Way officials said last week that this year's fund drive raised $1.6 million. The final tally was 86.5 percent of the $1.8 million goal.

The Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association received $277,392, or 40 percent of the $693,480 collected by the gaming commission in the first six months of fiscal 1997, which began July 1, 1996.

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