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Nonprofits Fear Losing Prairie Meadows’ Much-Needed Donations

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ALTOONA, Iowa -- Prairie Meadows is still coming to terms with the $60 million bill the IRS claims it owes, and so are local nonprofits.

The IRS says the casino owes $60.4 million in back taxes, interest and penalties. The agency is also threatening to take away Prairie Meadows’ tax-exempt nonprofit status, which could greatly impact dozens of organizations that rely on the casino's donations.

From college campuses to rehabilitation centers, dozens of local nonprofit organizations rely on help from Prairie Meadows.

Every year, Prairie Meadows gives away millions of dollars to agencies. Without that help, organizations could lose out on providing crucial services.

For the last two decades, the casino's donations have helped provide a space for at-risk kids.

“Since 1997, about $380,000 in contributions has been made to YESS. The biggest portion of that, last year, they contributed $200,000 to our expansion,” said Steven Quirk, CEO of Youth Emergency Services and Shelter of Iowa.

No matter the dollar amount, organizations say they heavily rely on those donations.

YESS officials say last year's contribution helped build an expansion project that would service more at-risk at the shelter. Without the help from Prairie Meadows, Quirk said counseling and activity programs would suffer.

“Lots of agencies do count on that support from Prairie Meadows, so certainly a lot of my colleagues have got this on our radar. It’s a big deal, it could have an impact on the philanthropic spirit in this community,” said Quirk.

The shelter has already begun thinking of ways to make up the money that would be lost, but Polk County officials say they haven’t fully thought about what it would do.

“We’re just a few hours in trying to absorb all of this,” said Polk County Supervisor Chair Tom Hockensmith.

Supervisors say it would be a blow to the community, but Hockensmith said he’s focusing on the present, not the future.

“We’re going to wait to see what happens. If they don’t prevail and they end up being a for-profit organization, then that’s a game changer. We’ll all have to put our heads together and see how to move ahead in the future,” he said.

YESS is thinking ahead, fearing that funding for its counseling and activities program would suffer. But officials are hoping for a positive outcome.

“The whole intention of setting up that relationship was to support the community, so hopefully the IRS can be sympathetic too. They are giving money and it may not be in the form of taxes, but they are giving by maybe even doing one better by providing support directly to the agencies,” Quirk said.

The IRS audit lists some of Prairie Meadows’ top contributions from 2014:

  • Des Moines Performing Arts: $202,500
  • Drake University: $300,000
  • Grand View University: $750,000
  • On With Life: $200,000
  • Prairie Meadows Scholarship Program: $375,000
  • Youth Emergency Services and Shelter of Iowa: $200,000

Jodi Whitworth will have more on this story on the Channel 13 News at Five.