19 AprNH argues no state money goes to scholarships

CONCORD, NH (AP) — Attorneys representing New Hampshire argued before state Supreme Court justices Wednesday that a state program that gives scholarships to students who attend private and religious schools is funded by businesses and that no state funds are given to the schools.

The court will decided the constitutionally of the state law that created the business education tax credit, which some opponents say violates the separation of church and state provision of New Hampshires constitution.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Richard Head told the court that the businesses donate to an independent scholarship organization. In return, they get a credit on their business profits and enterprise taxes amounting to 85 percent of their donations.

But Head acknowledged during questioning by the justices that absent the tax credit program, the business profit and business enterprise taxes in full would go to state coffers.

This program is clearly an assault on public schools, argued Attorney Alex Luchenitser, for Americans United for Separation of Church and State and a dozen other opponents of the tax credit program.

Supporters of the program packed the Supreme Court chambers Wednesday to listen hear the arguments. Many contend that it promotes educational freedom and choice for low income families.

A trial court last year deemed unconstitutional the portion of the law that makes religious school students eligible for the scholarships. The Supreme Court could invalidate the entire law, ending the scholarship awards to students at secular schools and parents who home-school.

Esther Fleurant of Concord was among those listening intently to the arguments. She sees the outcome as vital to her childrens education.

When she could no longer afford tuition at the Christian schools her children attended, Fleurant decided to home school four of her children, ranging in age from kindergarten to middle school. She says she was floundering trying to gather the textbooks and other materials she needed when she got nearly $1,000 in assistance from the tax credit program.

I was glad to get the scholarships I got, Fleurant said. In the beginning, I couldnt afford their curriculum.

Kate Baker runs the Network for Educational Opportunity, the only nonprofit channeling business donations into scholarship awards. She said 91 percent of the 103 scholarships awarded last year went to children who qualify for free and reduced lunch programs. None of the $128,000 in scholarships was given to students attending religious schools because of the lower court ruling, she said.

It really is a low income program, Baker said.

Baker said her organization had to return about $122,000 in unspent donations because the courts ruling removed many students from the eligibility list.

The tax credit program was passed in 2012 by Republican lawmakers who overrode a veto by then-Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat. Gov. Maggie Hassan, also a Democrat, has made repeal of the law a priority. Republicans last year managed to block repeal efforts.

Hassan urged the Supreme Court to uphold the lower court ruling, saying the tax credit amounts to a government subsidy of religious schools.

Its a student assistance program, not a school assistance program, said Attorney Richard Komer, representing the Institute for Justice and other supporters of the tax credit program. Its a means for low income families to access private education.

Komer said the business education tax credit program is no different than the states practice of exempting churches and religious schools from property taxes.

The justices did not indicate when they will rule.

19 AprYears after promises to fix it, key financial-aid form still thwarts students

Minutes later, Warren witnessed for herself how hard that was. She paced from station to station in a community room at the school — 88 percent of whose students are low-income, 94 percent nonwhite, and more than half non-native English-speaking–where a dozen seniors were huddled around their computer screens struggling with the lengthy form, which is required to qualify for a piece of $159 billion a year in federal, state, and institutional grants and loans for college.

Whats the problem here? she asked. Are you a US citizen? You need your Social Security number to fill out the FAFSA. Another hand shot up. I don’t know what the Selective Service is, the student said. Are you registered with the draft? Warren responded. Thats what that means.

On her way out, Warren gave the kids a thumbs-up and told them to “hang in there.”

They’ll need to. In spite of at least eight years of promise after promise from politicians that they would make the FAFSA easier, the form remains a barrier to college for students like these. The first significant reform took six years to finally make its way to students, who are seeing it for the first time now, as they face deadlines this spring to complete and submit the crucial questionnaire.

US Education Secretary Arne Duncan (R) listen to student Collin Bendinelli during a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) workshop at the TC Williams High School February 5, 2014 in Alexandria, Virginia. The first lady discussed the importance of students filling FAFSA. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It’s unclear whether these changes will have an impact on the estimated 2.3 million students a year the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators says would qualify for aid but don’t fill out the FAFSA. About 45 percent of high school seniors don’t complete the form, the Education Department reports.

The White House has announced a push to increase those numbers, not by making more improvements to the FAFSA, but by imploring students to finish it and recruiting mentors to help them.

“All you have to do to access that aid is fill out this one little form,” First Lady Michelle Obama told a group of high school students in Virginia. “It’s so simple.”

In fact, there are still 100 questions on the FAFSA’s six pages, many of which have several parts and ask for sensitive financial data beyond what’s required even on a tax return. Some are straightforward, but many are so convoluted they require their own separate sections of instructions.

18 AprIBEX IT Business Experts Receives National Certification as a Minority …

IBEX IT Business Experts, LLC, a leading provider of Technology Recruiting, Staffing, Training and Professional services in the Atlanta area, is pleased to announce its certification with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) as a Minority Business Enterprise.

Alpharetta, GA (PRWEB) April 01, 2014

IBEX IT Business Experts, LLC (IBEX) has met the requirements for certification as a bona fide Minority Business Enterprise as defined by the National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc. (NMSDC) and as adopted by the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council (GMSDC).

Tracey Grace, President amp; CEO of IBEX IT Business Experts, LLC, explained that “We are honored to become a certified Minority Business Enterprise. Partnerships are the bricks in which we built the foundation of our business. Certification with the NMSDC allows IBEX the unique opportunity to establish strategic relationships with corporate affiliates and other Minority Business Enterprises (MBE). After attending a GMSDC event, and seeing the genuine excitement and passion for success in the MBE network, the right choice was to align ourselves with the NMSDC. As an actively involved certified MBE, we are certain IBEX is further positioned to offer a holistic Technology Staffing and Training solution.”

About the NMSDC’s rigorous certification process:

The NMSDC requires that minority businesses in the Network are at least 51% minority-owned, operated and controlled. A combination of screenings, interviews and site visits establishes eligibility. This feature distinguishes NMSDC from other organizations or entities that publish directories which allow “self-certification” as their standard. Applicant MBEs meeting the certification criteria are eligible for specified services provided by NMSDC and its Regional Councils.

Certified MBEs are listed in the NMSDC national database called the Minority Business Information System (MBISYS) to which all national corporate members have direct access. On-line database computer access allows an MBE the opportunity to efficiently market its products or services nationwide.

Stringent certification standards also identify bona fide minority businesses, helping buying organizations’ to report expenditures as well as vendor utilization rates. These are measures of performance and progress in evaluating a minority supplier development process.

About IBEX:

IBEX IT Business Experts, LLC is a Woman Owned Technical Staffing, Recruiting, Training and Professional Services firm that provides high-quality services with a reputation for value and unwavering integrity. IBEX believes wholeheartedly that a healthy and well integrated IT organization is the lifeblood of every company.

To learn more about IBEX, please visit http://www.IBEXPartners.com.

About NMSDC:

The NMSDC Network includes a National Office in New York and 33 Regional Councils across the country, including the Atlanta Council which recognized IBEX with this certification. There are over 3,600 corporate members throughout the network, including most of America’s largest publicly-owned, privately-owned and foreign-owned NMSDC companies, as well as universities, hospitals and other buying institutions. The Regional Councils certify and match more than 16,000 minority-owned businesses with member corporations that want to purchase their products and services.

To learn more about NMSDC, visit http://www.nmsdc.org.

For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/IBEX2014/NMSDC/prweb11687392.htm

18 AprThe Edge: Soliciting government business worth hassles

For more than

20 years, Frazier Engineering had a strong commercial and municipal/county government customer base that comfortably sustained our small business.

But as the economy changed, we knew we had to change.

We decided to pursue unique certifications that would enable us to compete for federal work in a smaller competitive pool certifications such as 8(a), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise/DBE and Minority Business Enterprise/MBE).

Through the Small Business Administration 8(a) program, we were given opportunities that we would not have had before. However, if we did not already have the knowledge and manpower to support the requirements of those opportunities, our certification would only have been as good as the paper it was printed on. Our success to date has been the result of a solid team, being financially and technically sound, having a strong work history, and being actively responsive.

I’d like to share some lessons we’ve learned over time.

As a small-to-midsize, growing business leader, I would definitely recommend the time and effort involved in pursuing government contracts. Here are a few tips on how to approach government contract bids that could significantly benefit your business:

o Know what the government is buying (by the way, the government buys everything.)

o Find out what the government requires your business to have in order to do business with you, that is: insurance/bonding requirements, a DUNS #, Cage Code, special licensing/certifications, accounting infrastructure, credit history, past performance history, etc. Chances are you have most of these elements already if you are interested in government business.

o Find out how the government buys the service or product you provide, as local government is different than county, different than state, different than federal, etc. (Some entities may use existing contracts — like a state contract — some may have dollar thresholds you should be aware of, some use GSA schedules, etc.)

o Understand what elements will catch the government’s eye. For example, in Federal Government contracting, we are often asked for our “Capabilities Statement” — a single page company descriptor with a specific format. We may also be asked to state if we are registered on government websites such as the System for Award Management/SAM. Use your local resources (like your closest SBA Procurement Technical Assistance Center/PTAC office) to ask for assistance in writing your Capability Statement or registering in SAM.

What lessons have I learned over time? Quite a few. First, there is a perception that it’s “just too hard” and “takes too much time” to pursue government work. I can agree that it is hard and it does take a lot of time and resources, but only you and your business team can determine if that time is worth the trouble. In the case of our construction and engineering company, the government has proven to be a critical piece of our growing business and is absolutely worth the effort!

Having someone on your team that has worked for and understands the internal policy and procedures of the client you are pursuing (in this case, the government entity that you are seeking to do business with) can make life easier. You might be able to find that person or that institutional knowledge through many channels, including the FIT Women’s Business Center, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the PTAC offices, the Society of American Military Engineers, US Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Florida Minority Supplier Development Council, etc.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People within these groups may help facilitate an introduction or even be willing to hold your hand and walk you through the process. And don’t forget to stay involved in your local community.

There are several free resources for learning how to do business with the government, including your local PTACs, OSDBU offices (Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization), SBA, GSA and USWCC.

You can listen to training programs for these sites online. And don’t forget to get on the email lists of the organizations and agencies that work with government procurement — the Small Business Administration, fedbizops.com, etc.

And last, but not least, have patience. Government work takes time to understand — time to get your infrastructure setup, time to develop the right relationships and time to be fruitful.

Good luck with your pursuit of government business.

18 AprHow to engage with real enterprise architecture

A business model canvas may help the business side work better with IT

Most IT organizations of any size now have enterprise architecture teams. Yet in the eyes of the business, enterprise architects are viewed by business people much as a plague of locusts is viewed by a farmer a week or two before harvest time.

Unfriendly relations doesnt begin to cover it.

One of the reasons is that few enterprise architects have been able to engage the business in true enterprise architecture. Rather, theyve brought discussions about technology issues to the table. (Theyve also slipped repeatedly into what the business calls process myopia, both in terms of insisting on how the architecture process will unfold — wanted or not — and in terms of reducing everything to a process and data flow problem.)

When all you have is a hammer, every screw and bolt looks like a nail.

18 AprHow to get certified as a women-owned business

Jennifer Jeansonne, left, and Diane Lyons at the Womens Business Enterprise National Council Summit in New Orleans on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Jeansonne and Lyons have both had their business certified by the Womens Business Enterprise National Council, a step they say has helped them access contracts and executive training.

(Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

17 AprRichard Cordray’s federal agency accused of ongoing discrimination and …

WASHINGTON, DC Richard Cordrays consumer affairs agency
is facing intense criticism that it has a culture of racism and sexism,
regularly discriminating against women and minority employees.

One employee, an attorney and former Army officer, told a
congressional panel this morning that the problem is not only disparity in
promotions and raises at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It also is a
pervasive culture of retaliation and intimidation that silences employees and
chills the workforce from exposing wrongdoing, testified Angela Martin, a
senior attorney in the agencys office of enforcement.

Misty Raucci, a former investigator for an outside firm hired by Cordrays agency to look into Martins complaint, said she found a general environment in the
agencys 160-member consumer response office of exclusion, retaliation,
discrimination, nepotism, demoralization, devaluation and other offensive
working conditions.

Raucci told the oversight and investigations subcommittee
of the House Financial Services Committee today that this has created a toxic
workplace for many employees.

This follows a report by the publication American Banker
that examined internal agency data that showed the agency has a pattern of
ranking white employees distinctly better than minorities in performance
reviews used to grant raises and issue bonuses.

The American Banker report last month said that overall,
whites were twice as likely in 2013 to receive the agencys top grade than
were African-American or Hispanic employees.

Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general tapped by President
Barack Obama to head the agency, was not at the hearing and the CFPB declined
to send other officials to testify. Cordray was scheduled to give a speech
today to the Consumer Bankers Association but canceled last night. He sent a deputy to speak instead, the association said.

He issued a statement this afternoon, saying,I take seriously the concerns raised at todays hearing and deeply apologize to any member of the CFPB staff who feels that they have not been heard or treated fairly. I welcome the opportunity to appear before Congress to discuss these issues fully.

There is an irony about the claims: The CFPB, created by a
Democratically controlled Congress in 2010 over Republican objections, is
charged with creating a level playing field for ordinary Americans who take out
mortgages or seek loans for college or cars.

The CFPB has accused private lenders and auto dealers of showing
a pattern of discrimination against African-American borrowers. The agency says
that a disproportionate share of minority car buyers have been charged higher
interest rates than those given to white borrowers, and that this is evidence
of discrimination.

The National Automobile Dealers Association, or NADA, disputes
these claims, saying the CFPBs disproportionate impact standard was not
based on actual discrimination and failed to take into account nonracial
factors that can affect credit ratings and make a buyer face a higher interest

NADA declined to comment today.

The CFPB has prided itself on having the most diverse
workforce in federal government. But Martin said that having a large share of
minority and female workers does not mean that employees are given an equal
chance to advance, or even to earn equal pay.

Facial equality is not equal to racial equality, she said.

She said that she brought up these issues with Cordray and
that he said the problem was one of inexperienced managers. That alone might be solvable while inexcusable,
she said, but the problems are deeper than that, she said, and seem to be

The subcommittees questions
to the witnesses were dominated by Republicans, many of whom disliked the
CFPBs mere creation. They say that Cordrays independent agency has too much unchecked
power over banks and other lenders, and too little oversight from Congress.

Rep. Maxine Waters of California, the top Democrat on the
Financial Services Committee, last week asked that todays hearing be canceled
so that a more careful and intentional investigation could be conducted,
according to Housingwire.com.

But the hearing occurred as scheduled and Waters attended, ceding
some of her allotted speaking time to Martin so the witness could provide more
details about her experiences. Those included being denied the opportunity to
do her job and being retaliated against and isolated when she complained, Martin said.

Raucci, whose then-employer, Defense Investigators Group, is approved by the government to investigate cases like this, agreed with Martin that this happened all too often to others, too. She said there appeared to be a pervasive disregard for employee rights that is entrenched in the CFPBs Office of Consumer Response. And the American Banker reported that CFPB
employees have filed 115 grievances with the National Treasury Employees Union
just since last August.

Martin is a board member for the unions Local 335 unit. She
said was speaking to the congressional committee not as a union representative but, rather, as a whistleblower.

Waters, the ranking committee Democrat, wound up praising
the fact that the hearing occurred, despite her misgivings earlier. She said the testimony not only opened a
window on the goings-on at the CFPB. The hearing, Waters said, also lent credence to the concept of
disparate impact that when such a large share of people have similar,
negative outcomes, it is proper for it to be viewed as potentially discriminatory. Critics of some anti-discrimination laws and
rulings have said that a disparate impact is a poor standard and that it does
not prove actual discrimination.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, of Texas, who chairs the Financial
Services Committee, did not concede that point to Waters. But he said he had to
wonder this about Cordrays agency: Wheres
the equal protection?

17 AprHow to Get Out of Debt

By Brian Hufford, CPA, CFP®

Do you have a goal to get out of debt? Recently, a dentist friend posted a blog on Facebook by author James Clear titled Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. The author stressed the critical differences between goals and systems in achieving meaningful outcomes. For instance, the author stated, If youre a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month. The author stressed that systems are more important than goals.

My experience has been that a commitment to a goal without a larger commitment to the right systems simply creates stress, as any weight loss program will reveal. There are good systems and bad systems to achieve goals. A bad system for weight loss is anorexia. A bad system for getting out of debt is sacrificing savings to eliminate debt. In this column, I will focus on the best systems to eliminate debt for dentists.

The best system for getting out of debt has to accomplish two objectives: 1) eliminating all debt while 2) reaching your retirement age with adequate savings. Mathematically, it can be proven that a dentist who focuses on debt elimination between the ages of 35 to 50 by sacrificing savings of 20% of earnings each year, forfeits as much as $2 million of retirement savings at age 65. This is counterintuitive, but reveals the importance of running the numbers with something as important as your financial goals.

Anecdotal wisdom abounds with something as emotionally charged as a goal to be debt free. I once spoke at a national dental meeting with a dental financial icon who made the statement that Eliminating debt is your best investment. Where else can you achieve a guaranteed investment return of 7%? Embarrassingly, my presentation stated the importance of saving versus debt elimination, the exact opposite strategy. While it is true that investment returns from savings are not guaranteed, especially at a 7% return, it is also true that forfeiting 15 years of compound growth due to a focus on debt elimination costs most dentists a fortune at retirement age. I shared my numbers with my fellow speaker at lunch. He was shocked.

Unfortunately, a system that allows savings of 20% of income throughout an entire dental career has to embrace a compromise with debt elimination. Most dentists cannot eliminate debt rapidly while saving 20% each year. When the mathematics of income taxes are added to the equation, the lost wealth accumulation at retirement for rapid debt repayment is breathtaking.

For each $1.00 of principal repaid, a dentist must earn as much as $1.70 to pay $0.70 in federal and state taxes for the nondeductible principal. The implications are striking: a dentist could either maximize deductible retirement savings in a 401(k) plan at $51,000 or pay down $30,000 of debt. They are similar after-tax equivalents.

Following are the components of a debt elimination system we recommend.

First, you must save at least 20% of income each year of your career. If you are unable to save this amount each year, the most likely culprit is rapid debt elimination. To check your system of debt elimination, apply the following formula. List all the debt you currently owe, both practice and personal. Total how much you owe. Total the monthly payments on all of your debt. Divide the total debt payments by the total amount you owe. If the answer to this equation is more than 0.8% or .008, you are likely not able to save 20% of income.

As an example, lets say that you have $600,000 of practice and personal debt and that your monthly payments are $12,000. The monthly payments are 2% of the total amount owed. If the debt were structured properly, the monthly payments could be as low as $4,800 or 0.8%. This is a difference in after-tax savings potential of $86,400. If this amount were committed to a deductible retirement plan arrangement, the before-tax equivalent could be as much as $145,000 in the highest brackets. When we have run the numbers, the best system for debt elimination for these facts would be to save the $145,000 each year, invest conservatively, and simply pay off any remaining debt with the practice sale at retirement.

In summary, do not surrender your retirement goal with a debt elimination system that sacrifices saving 20% each year. You can eliminate debt only as quickly as your ability to save 20% allows.

Brian Hufford, CPA, CFP®, is CEO of Hufford Financial Advisors, LLC, an independent, fee-only planning firm that helps dentists achieve financial peace of mind. Contact Hufford at (888) 470-3064 or bhufford@huffordfinancial.com.

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17 Apr‘Starting Right’ program in Ohio City

Business Enterprise Center information

Did you know that the Business Enterprise Center has helped thousands of new business start-ups since 1985? Today, free business consultation services are still offered to new and existing businesses throughout the area due to a number of local banks, economic development agencies, community foundations, and counties donations that help offset costs.

In collaboration with the Wright State University Business Enterprise Center, the “Starting Right” pre-business planning seminar, designed to help individuals start a new business, will be offered free of charge on May 13 in the Ohio City Village Hall.

This two-hour workshop, designed to encourage new business development and job creation, is being sponsored by the county and city loan programs managed through the Ohio State University Extension Van Wert County Community Development Office.

Each participant receives a “Starting Right” packet including legal, recordkeeping, tax and general business information. A business plan questionnaire and cash flow projection worksheet is also included. During the class, a business counselor provides an overview of the information as well as instruction on the basics of business ownership.

Those attending the class can use the information provided to participate in the annual Business Plan Challenge where budding entrepreneurs compete for business development funds, a Chamber membership, continued counseling and business courses. A business counselor is available to offer guidance through this process and answer questions as necessary. Personal business counseling services are free and no limit is placed on the number of appointments. Business counselors assist with business financing for start-ups, business structure, planning and recordkeeping.

Individuals can register by calling the Wright State University Business Enterprise Center at 419.232.2008 or the OSU Extension Van Wert County Community Development Office at 419.238.2999. The “Starting Right” pre-business planning seminar is also offered monthly in Van Wert and Celina. Mercer County residents can call the Business Enterprise Center at the Lake Campus at 419.586.0355 or email Carol at carol.jones@wright.edu.

17 AprGrow Your MSP Business with Enterprise-grade Cloud Backup & DR

In our most recent FastChat video (above), Zetta.net Vice President, Products, Chris Schin talks about the options available for managed service providers (MSPs) that offer cloud-based backup and disaster recovery. They include traditional on-premise software with a bolt-on cloud extension, consumer-based cloud BDR repackaged as enterprise, and appliance based.

But do those really make sense for business customers? Schin discusses best practices for managed service providers to offer customers enterprise-class backup and disaster recovery. He also addresses big trends in the market and how MSPs can turn cloud-based backup into a profit center for their businesses.

The discussion addresses some of Zettas recent growth numbers and how MSPs can connect with the company to trial its offering. The trial can be accessed at this link: www.Zetta.net/trial