Struggling nonprofit Hill House Association asking Pittsburgh for support
An agency whose development arm opened a grocery store in the Hill District but lost money the past two years wants city officials to help it generate revenue and broaden its base of support.
The Hill House Association lost $609,076 last year on top of nearly $2.3 million in 2012, financial records show. The Hill District-based nonprofit funds social and community development programs in the neighborhood.
Concern about its financial course prompted agency officials to meet with Mayor Bill Peduto several times.
“We are having conversations with them about how to provide a stable future,” said Kevin Acklin, Peduto's chief of staff.
Acklin said he could not disclose details, but the agency has not asked the city for money. Rather, he said, Hill House asked for the city's help in generating a steady stream of money by supporting its mission and urging its supporters to give.
Cheryl Hall-Russell, president and CEO of Hill House, did not return calls or emails seeking comment. A staff member said she was unavailable when a reporter visited the group's headquarters.
“We wholeheartedly support Cheryl Hall-Russell and her management team,” Michael Jasper, chairman of the Hill House board of directors, said in an email. “They have shown extraordinary commitment to Hill House and the community at-large, and we continue to applaud them.”
Nonprofit analyst Scott B. Leff said the association needs to watch its operating losses, but he does not consider them daunting, considering the size of the organization.
“They've certainly been impacted by getting the grocery store open, but that's a greatly needed service,” said Leff, senior consultant for organizational development and strategy at Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University. “It certainly wouldn't appear that their solvency is in any way threatened.”
During the past decade, the agency shouldered a greater role in improving the neighborhood with the grocery store, a pharmacy and a smaller market, among other businesses.
The Shop ‘n Save store, subsidized with $2.5 million in public money, opened last year on Centre Avenue, along with other businesses. It marks the first food store in the Hill District since the 1980s.
In 2008, Hill House leaders and others s uccessfully urged the Penguins and elected officials to establish a “community benefits” agreement that gave Hill District residents the first opportunity to apply for jobs in Consol Energy Center; a job resources center; and a $2 million contribution split between the Penguins and the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh.
This fall, Hill House plans to open a charter school with a goal of helping dropout-prone students.
The agency's audit, by the Downtown accounting firm of Sisterton & Co., shows an operating deficit of more than $1.4 million last year and nearly $1.4 million in 2012.
Operations represent just part of the overall budget. The 2013 operating loss was lessened by gains in other areas, including transfers Hill House made from other sources, such as its endowment.
The audit attributed the problems to reduced funding from contributors such as the United Way, the loss of certain government contracts and increases in general operating costs. The cost of managing the agency, for example, rose from about $1.1 million to nearly $1.7 million between 2012 and 2013, while the cost of running its services dropped from more than $7.2 million to $5.6 million.
The auditors did not return messages seeking comment. No one from Hill House was available to explain the seeming contradiction.
“Management of HHA has begun to implement a plan, which includes staff reductions, increases in efficiency and reduction of redundant functions, identification of additional sources of revenue, and increased fundraising efforts within the private foundation community,” the auditors noted.
“Clearly, the issue is they have to turn this operating loss around very soon because what was a pretty strong balance sheet last year has become weaker this year,” said Ken McCrory, an accountant and principal with ParenteBeard who examined Hill House Association's audit.
Bill Zlatos is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7828.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto: Public has stake in Penguins
- State lawmaker proposes increasing cost of state fishing licenses
- Newsmaker: Pete DiNardo
- Belle Vernon woman visits ship like lander she helped build as WWII welder
- Asking price for Penguins franchise said to be at a record $750M
- Pittsburgh schools chief Lane stepping down next summer
- Food assistance rises in Western Pa. despite drop in jobless rate
- Embezzled $14.8M could cause woes for North Side firm Matthews International
- Construction to close roads in O’Hara, Baldwin Borough
- Pittsburgh Zoo staff caring for African lion suffering from seizure condition
- Animal welfare groups see opportunities in dialogue about Vick signing