Icon (Close Menu)


Budget Problems Force Cuts at World Services for the Blind

3 min read

The World Services for the Blind of Little Rock said Monday it laid off “approximately” 10 staff members around Nov. 25 due to what it called “budgetary constraints.”

Citing “financial difficulties,” the nonprofit posted a statement on its website Thursday saying it would extend its usual holiday closure period to allow its leaders time to devise a plan. 

“This is a challenging time for the organization and our clients, staff and stakeholders,” the statement read. “WSB is not closing its doors.” 

Stacey Hunter Schwartz, the nonprofit’s new president and CEO, told Arkansas Business in an email Monday that relocation is among the topics that will be discussed by its leaders over the holiday break, which will begin Friday.

“Over this break period, WSB leadership will be discussing options for sustaining the organization’s mission (such as relocation) and specific action steps to take in that process,” Schwartz said in the email.

Video: THV 11 News talks to WSB clients about what the financial trouble means for them.

Addressing the source of the organization’s current financial trouble, Schwartz said “a lot has changed in the rehabilitation industry and the economy since WSB was founded in 1947.”

“Although WSB serves a specific population with unique services, the organization has faced challenges for many years based in efforts to keep up with progress in the industry,” Schwartz said. “Like many other nonprofits, WSB was also hit hard during the recession and recovery has been limited. WSB’s clients still need us and the work we do is still very relevant.”

Schwartz said the nonprofit needed to make changes that allow WSB “to be more resilient and adaptable to changes in the industry and economy.”

“Our campus has capacity for 91 clients, yet only use about a third of that,” Schwartz said. “Thus, our facility costs are disproportionate to our revenue. We are also planning to make our recruitment model more robust.”

Shrinking Assets

In the past four fiscal years, WSB has seen its assets shrink and its expenses continually outweigh its revenue.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010, WSB’s total assets were $7.1 million, according to the organization’s 2010 990 Form (PDF), filed with the Internal Revenue Service. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013, WSB’s total assets were at $5.6 million. In the same amount of time, the organization’s net assets have fallen from $3.7 million to $2.4 million.

Meanwhile, the organization’s expenses have fallen from $3.6 million to $3.1 million. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013, employee salaries, compensation and benefits accounted for $2.1 million, after three consecutive years of being at least $2.5 million. 

WSB’s expenses have outweighed its revenues by as much as $1.2 million and by as little as $380,817 in the four-year period. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013, expenses were $408,921 more than the organization’s revenue.

At the same time, the organization’s total liabilities have fluctuated between $3.4 million and $2.9 million. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013, total liabilities were $3.1 million.

Turnover at the Top

Schwartz took over the role as top executive Nov. 17, replacing Tony O. Woodell, whose sudden departure on Oct. 28 has not been explained. Woodell had been on the job since June. He replaced Larry Dickerson, who announced his retirement in March after five years as CEO.

“Members of the board did not give a reason for the leadership change,” Schwartz told Arkansas Business. 

Woodell, who had been the nonproft’s COO, was the board’s unanimous choice for CEO, Chairman Thomas Duke said in a June news release. 

At the time, Duke noted that, “like many nonprofits,” WSB had “experienced and, thankfully, overcome” hardships.

“I expect our future to be bright as we move forward with new ideas and new programs,” he said. 

Attempts by Arkansas Business to contact Duke at his chiropractic office in Kansas City, Missouri, have been unsuccessful.

Send this to a friend