PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Minutes from a Sept. 6 Board of Directors meeting indicated WTVP-TV was at risk of bouncing checks this summer without borrowing money and selling off some of its investments.
According to the minutes posted on the station’s website, without those moves, the station’s cash position would have been “negative $45,000” at the end of July.
Questions have swirled on social media over the past few months regarding the stations’ fiscal well-being. At a board meeting on Tuesday, directors voted to slash the station’s budget to 2019 levels to $3.5 million, a cut of $1.5 million.
At Tuesday’s board meeting, details of how that would happen, what it would look like, and how it could affect local programming were not explained. Board Chairman Andrew Rand declined to elaborate after the meeting and then again on Wednesday.
The minutes, which were approved Tuesday, state the station used “$100,000 of credit capacity (PNC) and management had liquidated $320,000 of the investment account.” Additionally, the minutes state that neither of those moves was known to the board’s treasurer or executive board committee before getting a draft of the July financial statement.
There were also issues regarding Peoria Magazine, which the station’s parent company purchased in the past few years. Matuszak told board members at the Sept. 6 meeting that the magazine made $750,000, but Helen Barrick, the board’s treasurer, said it grossed $750,000.
The revelations come one day after Rand, who was reading from a prepared statement, said the station had “some unauthorized, questionable, or improper expenses.”
“The Executive Committee has accumulated papers and documents, letters, and financial records that provided insight into expenditures and uses of funds of WTVP that were questionable, unauthorized or improper. We believe such expenditures have been stopped,” Rand said.
While only words on a page, the minutes seem to convey a sense of urgency regarding the matter. The board would use a strategic planning expert, Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey, to help with the next year or so to get the station back on track.
A small committee was formed with former CEO and station manager Lesley Matuszak, Rand, the board’s vice chair, Sid Ruckriegel, and the board’s treasurer, Helen Barrick, to work on reducing the “chronic operating losses and negative cash flow from the station’s business operations.”
Ruckriegel was to be Matuszak’s “supervising representative from the executive committee,” the minutes state. Matuszak died on Sept. 28 at her West Bluff home. Her death came one day after she resigned from her position at the station.
The board learned of the issues as the station’s auditors reviewed the 2023 year-end financials. Among the findings:
- The station was expected to lose $650,000, according to the initial reports, but entries through the end of August reduced that to $641,000.
- Matuszak told the board in April that they would have about $460,000 in the bank at the end of June when their fiscal year ended. Instead, the amount was projected to be closer to $160,000.
- Board members didn’t know the station had dipped into its credit account or sold off investments until they were told.
As such, board members decided to take more control of the station’s finances, which included approving all expenses and outgoing checks before they were issued. It also meant a deep dive into the station’s books to determine the real financial health of WTVP and to borrow or sell off investments up to $750,000 as a way to stabilize the “cash burn.”