After the sale of more than 200 acres of land at Camp Maubila in Clarke County in an effort to stem the tide of steep financial losses, the council is back on the right track, according to Scout Executive Michael Hartigan of the Mobile Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
The council sold two tracts of land — 70 acres and 159 acres — netting $310,000 in revenues after fees and survey costs. The 229 acres represent nearly one-third of the land at the 680-acre camp near Jackson, but Hartigan insists the sale won’t impact the activities that take place at the camp.
According to Hartigan, approximately 100 to 150 acres are used for the main activities at Camp Maubila including dining, swimming and outdoor activities, while approximately 300 acres is timberland managed by the Scouts. Hartigan said when the council purchased the land in March 1958, it paid $68,000 for the entire 680-acre property.
The council provides scouting programs to youth in Baldwin, Mobile, Clarke and Washington counties.
“It is important to note that neither one of these areas we sold were being used by our Scouts, Scout leaders or our campers,” Hartigan said. “We still have a 450-acre property, which is huge for a Boy Scout camp. Our camp is very active and we have improvement plans to maintain and upgrade the facilities. We do not expect to sell any more land.”
In December 2015, Hartigan said the sale was necessary because of financial losses the council has suffered in the last few years.
According to IRS Form 990 disclosures, the nonprofit scouting organization recorded a $290,520 loss in 2014, the last year for which records were immediately available. While spending in excess of $1.14 million in 2014, the council generated just $856,342 in revenues. Hartigan was paid a $119,583 salary and the council spent $326,218 on salaries and wages in 2014.
The same tax records indicate that in 2013 and 2012 the Scouts lost $124,972 and $80,048, respectively. The last time the council reported a surplus was 2011, when it received $1,351,627 and spent $1,328,338. That year the council sold 77 acres of land at Camp Pushmataha to the city of Citronelle for $225,000.
In 2009 and 2010, the council reported deficits of $311,341 and $274,821, respectively.
In 2009 Hartigan replaced longtime Scout Executive William T. Luc, who served in the position from 1987 to 2008.
Hartigan said the Scouts began the current fiscal year Jan. 1 with an operating budget of approximately $847,000. He said the council plans to cut expenses and use revenues from the land sale to pay down debts.
“After the money from the sale of 229 acres is in hand, we will owe no long-term debt to outside banks or financial institutions and no accounts payable other than current bills,” Hartigan said. “Our fiscal year started on Jan. 1 and we have cut expenses more than $150,000 from last year’s budget.”
Gary Finch, an Eagle Scout and the host of a syndicated outdoors television show, said without available land to sell at Maubila, the council could have collapsed last year. If it were dissolved, Finch said, the council could be taken over by a neighboring council in Florida or Mississippi.
“The council was formed in 1919 and to me, it looks like a lot of what they worked so hard to build is gone,” Finch said. “Had we not owned Camp Maubila, I believe the council would have already dissolved. We’ve already sold Camp Pushmataha, and now we sold a chunk of Maubila. If things don’t get back on track, what else can we sell?”
Last fall, the Scouts’ annual popcorn sale accounted for approximately $245,000 in total sales for the council. According to Hartigan, revenues from the popcorn sales are divided into thirds and distributed to the Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout packs that sell it, to popcorn manufacturer Trail’s End Popcorn Company and the Mobile Area Council.
Additionally, popcorn revenue pays for awards and prizes for the Scouts who sell the popcorn. Hartigan said the popcorn sale accounts for approximately 8 percent to 9 percent of revenue to the operating budget.
“When you combine the clay shoot and golf tournament, we plan to raise close to $50,000 this fall, which is about 6 to 7 percent of revenue to our budget,” Hartigan said.
Finch questioned why Scouts were asked to sell popcorn every fall while he accused leadership of failing to get its financial house in order.
“It is disrespectful to the Scoutmasters and the kids that while they put this pressure on the kids to sell the popcorn, they can’t get a handle on their own finances,” Finch said.
At the end of 2015, there were more than 4,000 registered youth and 1,400 registered adult leaders within the program’s service area of Baldwin, Mobile, Clarke and Escambia counties.
There are more than 160 total units, from Cub Scout packs to Explorer posts, that Hartigan called the program’s “boots on the ground.”
“They make our programming and training possible,” Hartigan said. “Without them there would be no scouting in our council.”
Hartigan said sponsorship opportunities are available for the the council’s upcoming Run Ride Scout event, a 5K run, duathlon and 1-mile fun run on May 14 at the USS Alabama battleship. Interested sponsors can call event coordinator James Alexander at 251-401-1561 for information.