Page 1

Reed football set to host fundraiser See Sports, Page 1B

Let the good times spin See A&E, Page 8A

Also Inside • Region in Brief: 3A • Crime Beat: 3A • Arts in Brief: 4A • Birth Announcements: 4A • Today in History: 4A • Puzzles: 4A • Advice/Comics: 4B

Sparks Tribune Daily

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50¢ • VOLUME 101 NUMBER 217



Nonprofits threatened by tax change Local groups must file or lose status By Sarah Cooper

SPARKS — Hundreds of thousands of small organizations across the country, ranging from memorial scholarship funds to union associations, could lose their nonprofit status with the IRS if they do not meet an October tax filing deadline. About 325,000 charities are being threatened. Of these, about 1,780 are in Nevada. “The Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA), signed into law on Aug. 17, 2006, is the most sweeping pension legislation in over 30 years and includes a number of significant tax incentives to enhance and protect retirement savings for millions of Americans,” according to a statement from the IRS. The act also came with a few tacked on provisions that required nonprofits to report to the IRS annually. According to a statement issued last week, it is now mandatory for nonprofits, other than churches, to file tax returns. They have until Oct. 15 to file the

Tribune File/Debra Reid Sparks firefighters arrived in fire trucks to deliver Christmas gifts in 2007 to one of the families they adopted for the holiday. Not filing taxes could now threaten area nonprofits such as Sparks Fire Department Inc. last three years of tax returns or lose nonprofit status. “We are doing everything we can to help organizations comply with the law and keep their valuable tax exemption,” IRS  Commissioner Doug Shulman said in the

statement. Those in Sparks listed by the IRS included the smallest of nonprofits. Dennis Reetz, the president of the Sparks American Postal Workers’ Union, was unaware that his organization was even

threatened. “I don’t know why we are on that list,” he said. “We file every year for our nonprofit status.” A small receipt was in Reetz’s hand to prove it. Small organizations are required to file a 990-N, Tribune File/ Debra Reid Washoe County School District Superintendent Heath Morrison leads a budget press conference at Sparks Middle School earlier this year. His first year on the job brought budget and reform challenges.

Morrison reflects on first year By Jessica Garcia

RENO – Washoe County School District Superintendent Heath Morrison wasn’t happy to make the decision to cut $37 million from the budget for local schools, but he is proud of the collaboration that has resulted from the reductions in his first year on the job. “It was the right time; it was a good time,” he told the Tribune on Wednesday,

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an eight-question form that, if electronically returned before Oct. 15, will bring the nonprofit back into compliance in the eyes of the IRS. “In my hands is the receipt, (which says) ‘990-N has been accepted,

Wednesday, March 31, 2010, before 6 p.m.,’ ” Reetz read. “ ‘The IRS has accepted e-postcard.’ ” Others were not so fortunate. Some of the nonprofit organizations on the list had changes in leadership in recent years. The National Antique Doll Dealers last filed its forms with the IRS when Teri Foley of Sparks was treasurer two years ago. Without formal offices and with the treasurer changing every few years, nonprofit filing has gone by the wayside. “We change leadership every two years,” Foley said. The new treasurer lives in Pennsylvania at an address that the IRS does not have on file. “The list was generated by the end of June and (it’s) a list of those who generally  have a filing requirement,” said Raphael Tulino, IRS spokesman for the western region. The Sparks Fire Department Inc., a nonprofit that has been a vehicle for small fundraisers and Christmas giving to residents in need, was also listed as in danger. However, Sparks Fire Department Division Chief Frank Frievalt said the listing could have been made in error by the IRS. See Nonprofit page 2A

Sparks motorcycle accident victim dies Tribune Staff

SPARKS — A 30-yearold motorcycle rider died Wednesday morning from injuries suffered in an accident Tuesday night. On Tuesday at 9:47 p.m., Sparks police responded to the area of 85 Coney Island Drive on a report of a single-vehicle accident involving a motorcycle. Officers arrived within a minute of the call and found that the operator of the motorcycle, later identified as Matthew Tarver of Sparks, was injured but was talking and refusing to be transported to the hospital. Tarver was prompted by friends on the scene to go to the hospital and was transported to Renown Regional Medical Center by REMSA for treatment.

As a result of injuries sustained from the collision, Tarver died Wednesday morning. Alcohol or drugs do not appear to be a factor at this time however toxicology reports are pending, according to police. The initial investigation indicates Tarver was traveling east on Coney Island Drive at a high rate of speed when he lost control, causing the motorcycle to fall to the pavement and skid into a curb. The impact with with the curb vaulted Tarver and the motorcycle into a private parking lot where he struck a power transformer box and a parked vehicle. The impact from the collision with the transformer box knocked power out to several nearby businesses.

reflecting on his acceptance of the position as superintendent last year. “I knew there would be tremendous challenges but there were also tremendous opportunities.” Morrison’s first anniversary as the schools chief, which officially was on Sunday, has been seasoned with challenges as Washoe County weathered some of the bleakest education budget storms in the state and nation: competing for reform-based federal funding, asking for cooperation

from local associations for employees to take salary freezes and furlough days and battling against sluggish graduation rates. Coming on board in August 2009 with that knowledge, however, didn’t stop his desire to uproot from Montgomery County in Maryland and travel to Reno to become a WCSD employee. His brief experience here so far has given him the latitude to rally support from community organizations, parents and teachers in a time of uncer-

tainty. “I always say it’s not a test of leadership when everyone thinks you look good when the times are good, but when times are tough,” he said. Most recently, Morrison said, the loss of Race to the Top federal funding for educational reform denied Nevada and Washoe County School District access to $175 million, but the proposals for change in its application won’t go away






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Appeal filed in killing of UNR officer Associated Press

RENO — A man convicted and sentenced to die for the 1998 hatchet killing of a University of Nevada, Reno police officer has filed a new appeal in federal court. Siaosi Vanisi argues Washoe District Judge Connie Steinheimer violated his rights by refusing to let him fire his lawyers and represent himself. page 2A In a petition filed in U.S.

District Court in Reno, Vanisi also says the judge wouldn't allow his lawyers to withdraw from the case after Vanisi admitted he had killed Sgt. George Sullivan. Sullivan was sitting in his patrol car on Jan. 13, 1998 when Vanisi attacked him with a hatchet. The Nevada Supreme Court has affirmed his conviction and denied other appeals.

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For a list of local nonprofits threatened by the tax change, read this story online at

the law also required that any tax-exempt organization that fails to file for three consecutive years automatically loses its federal tax-exempt status.” According to the IRS, a “small” organization means the charity has gross receipts of $25,000 or less. For example, the postal union has about 25 members and meets the gross receipts requirement, qualifying with the IRS as small. Larger charities that missed the past three years of filing deadlines might have to pay a compliance fee of up to $500 if its gross receipts are more than $200,000 per year. “The compliance fee is required for participation in the VCP (voluntary compliance program, or extension program),” according to the IRS’ website. “The compliance fee is in lieu of taxes, penalties and interest that otherwise would be incurred by reason of non-filing …” The extension is not available for large organizations that have to file Form 990 or to private foundations. The revocation of the organization’s tax-exempt status will not take place until the filing due date of the third year, Tulino said.

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“I have spoken to the president of Sparks Fire Department Inc. and he is unaware of any change or impending change to the nonprofit status of the group,” he said. “He (the president) will be contacting the IRS to verify the current status of the organization and, if necessary, provide whatever information is needed to maintain its current status. “ He added that the department and its nonprofit arms were aware of the tax change as it applied to the Sparks Fire Department Historical Foundation. However, no further information was available regarding the first nonprofit as of press time. Tulino added that the charities on the threatened list could be defunct, moved or had changes in leadership. In the end, he said, the IRS just does not know for sure without a filing form. “Essentially, the list includes exempt organizations that are potentially at risk because they are not in compliance,” Tulino said. “The Pension Protection Act of 2006 made two important changes affecting taxexempt organizations, effective the beginning of 2007.  “First, it mandated that all tax-exempt organizations must file an annual return with the IRS,” he continued. “The form 990-N was created for small taxexempt organizations that had not previously had a filing requirement.  Second,

Judge overturns Calif. gay marriage ban


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Voter-approved ban deemed unconstitutional Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge overturned California's gay-marriage ban Wednesday in a landmark case that could eventually force the U.S. Supreme Court to confront the question of whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker made his ruling in a lawsuit filed by two gay couples who claimed the voter-approved ban violated their civil rights. Gay couples waving rainbow and American flags outside the courthouse cheered, hugged and kissed as word of the ruling spread.

MORRISON from page 1A

because a commitment has been made that he intends to keep. “The things that went into the application are as important today as they were (when they were written),” Morrison said. “It was never about the money. It’s about the recognition for the need to increase productivity and bring in industry for everyone who loves and lives here.” The superintendent said he believes in a proactive approach in setting a reform agenda that he hopes will transform Washoe’s educational system and help all of its 63,000 students to achieve and become college- or careerready. “For some people, it’s not just a moral imperative to do what’s best for kids,” Morrison said. “For some people, it’s even more important that we have a better economy that resonates with folks because it’s the right thing to do for the state.”

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"This is a victory for the American people. It's a victory for our justice system," said former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who delivered the closing argument at trial for opponents of the ban. He said the ruling "vindicates the rights of a minority of our citizens to be treated with decency and respect and equality in our system." California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also praised the ruling as an important step toward equality and freedom for all people. Despite the favorable ruling for same-sex couples,

gay marriage will not be allowed to resume immediately. Judge Walker said he wants to decide whether his order should be suspended while the proponents of the ban pursue their appeal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. California voters passed the ban as Proposition 8 in November 2008, five months after the state Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Supporters argued the ban was necessary to safeguard the traditional understanding of marriage and to encourage responsible childbearing Walker, however, found

One obstacle is overcoming the “status quo” by putting down on paper a plan that administrators, teachers and the community will buy into, a task Morrison has been attacking with the district’s Board of Trustees by creating a strategic plan that outlines the district’s mission, goals and tactics. Trustee Barbara Clark, who was board president at the time of the search, said she was pleased with the process that took two rounds of candidate interviews before the board offered the position to Morrison. She said she is proud of the board’s choice. Part of his appeal to the board as he transitioned into the top district job, she said, was his reliance on data to understand the trends among student and school performance. “…Being able to see data and being able to make my decisions accordingly … is a big deal because while I believe, whether I’m here or the superintendent is here, once those processes are in place, it won’t matter who’s here (in the future),” Clark

said. “We can rest assured the district has a good foundation over the years to accomplish the goals, which are increasing graduation rates and to diminish the gaps among students.” Morrison has his eyes set on accomplishing more in the future. He hopes to establish full-day kindergarten in all of the district’s elementary schools and other early education programs. He said he once told someone that for every dollar spent on early education, $17 is saved down the road. Convincing the community to agree to such objectives is another challenge that he’s spent much of his time in the first year addressing. Improving graduation rates is also a top priority, which includes building partnerships with the community to help teens walk the stage. Raising the district’s consistent 55 percent rate to higher numbers is an imperative, he said. “It shouldn’t have to be hard with 63,000 reasons for doing it,” he said. Clark said his strength for rallying support has



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been successful outside the district. “He is very much a superintendent who is out in the community, meeting with people who are decision-makers at the local and state levels,” Clark said. “He is constantly seeking avenues to bring resources into the schools.” Changing the district’s mindset from being “compliance-driven” to becoming “data-driven” continues to be important for him and he has been fairly successful because it’s created collaboration among the educators. “We need to be about results,” he said. “We have to be honest about the data … and I don’t know how you build trust without honesty.” His plans for the next year are to help the board complete the strategic plan and assist the district in capitalizing on more resources than just money. “Time is a big resource, but so are people,” he said. “We need to figure out how to better build our (human) capital. … With a 14 percent unemployment rate, we need to talk to people into helping the district. There are people who can build websites or work on landscapes who can help us or people who can be mentors for kids. There are lots of opportunities to help.” Morrison said he has no regrets about taking the job. “It feels like we’re making a difference,” he said about his family’s move to Nevada. “We haven’t looked back for one day of the job.”


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By Sarah Cooper S ee a&e, p age 8a See Morrison page 2A Tribune File/Debra reid Sparks firefighters arrived in fire trucks to deliver Ch...