Margate Chamber of Commerce retools financial reporting by: MargateNews.net

Last year wasn’t a great year for the Margate Chamber of Commerce. Grossing close to a $100,000 in revenues, the organization finished 2012 almost $600 in the hole, with top heavy commissions putting a dent in financial performance.

The main source of income last year for the Chamber was membership dues at $39,000. Festivals and fairs took in $25,000 and the monthly breakfast grossed $9,400. Annual events the Octoberfest and Street Festival generated $5,200 and $4,000 respectively. All this reported in financial statements issued to the Chamber Board.

Joining the organization's Board of Directors in January, the Chamber’s new treasurer, Rick Riccardi, and Director, Anthony Caggiano, both agreed Chamber books were a mess. Record-keeping and billing were shoddy and commission schedules were out of whack. Of the almost $40,000 collected in membership fees, $18,000 - or 46 percent, was paid out in commissions.

“Something didn’t look right,” Riccardi said, “So we conducted an audit and improved checks and balances,” he told MargateNews.net.

Riccardi said some commissions on memberships were being paid out at 40 percent of gross - high for outside sales. No commission schedule was in place and what constituted a commission wasn’t clear, he said. Though the Board motioned to terminate the sales rep taking hefty commissions, members instead decided to allow the individual to return $400 in non-commission income to Chamber coffers.

Caggiano, a key player in the audit, said he hopes to make financials more transparent to Chamber members and for statements to be “clean, clear and easily understood,” in the future he said. For instance, Octoberfest appears as an income line item in financial statements, but has no related expense category. Likewise, “Carnival and Circus” and “Street Festival” appear as income categories, while “Street Festival Carnival” and “Circus” appear as expense categories. In their current state, making an argument for accuracy would be difficult, Caggiano said.

“We saw a tremendous need for clarity, added line item categories and revised accounting procedures. We want to make this a Chamber members can trust and one the City can be proud of.”

Moving forward, commissions of 30 percent will be paid out on new memberships and 15 percent on lapsed members who resign. A version of Quick Books will be implemented and as Treasurer Riccardi will be scrutinizing commission payouts. He is working on a bonus program aimed at incentivizing sales and for the first time in ten years a Spanish-speaking sales rep has been onboarded to encourage Latino businesses to join the organization.

Aware of problems at the Chamber, Margate City Commissioner, Joanne Simone - the newest edition to the Board of Directors, said she feels good about changes and is hopeful the organization will improve.

“I know the Chamber has been criticized and rightly so, but I think we’re moving forward in a positive direction now. I think good things may come from the Chamber,” she said at the May CRA* meeting Wednesday.

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