05/26/17 — Board discusses nonprofit funding

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Board discusses nonprofit funding

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 26, 2017 7:01 AM

Not only did it take less than an hour Tuesday for Wayne County commissioners to review funding requests from outside agencies, they did so without the sometimes acrimonious comments that have marked previous deliberations.

The WATCH and Literacy Connections requests that have drawn the most wrath in recent years barely got a mention even though the budget proposal includes an increase for WATCH.

"They (WATCH) were at $165,000 last year," County Manager George Wood said. "This year they requested the full amount ($200,000), but I recommended $170,000.

"If you remember when we were talking about negotiating this, we agreed to go up $5,000. They were satisfied with it. So they will not be making a presentation to you. That is what they told me."

"Let me say again about WATCH, I strongly object to taking tax dollars and contributing that over to WATCH," said Commissioner Joe Daughtery who is a staunch opponent of the county funding of nonprofits. "I still contend that WATCH is a great program, but is a direct benefit to the hospital to reduce the use of the emergency room.

"That is what its original intent was, to be able to get grant monies to fund it. With that said, I know when I am outvoted so let's move on."

Daughtery made similar comments about funding for Literacy Connections.

The adult literacy program requested $101,232, but Wood is recommending it be funded at the same level as this year, $98,195.

"I expressed my same concerns on Literacy Connections," Daughtery said. "We have the community college. We have all of these programs that are out here to promote reading, learning to read, and I just think they need to be used versus this program."

Commissioner Ray Mayo, who has supported the program, said if that takes place then he would be glad to vote to end the funding.

"But up to today, that has not taken place," Mayo said. "That is why Literacy Connections is so important. If at any time you can show me or the board of education or the community college can show me they are taking these people into account, I would definitely vote with you next year to defund Literacy Connections."

Over 24 agencies submitted funding requests totaling $1,214,548.

Only one, a $15,000 request from the Long Term Disaster Recovery Group-Wayne County, was eliminated.

The group's mission is to work on disaster relief related to Hurricane Matthew.

Commissioners reiterated the same concerns they raised when the group first asked for the funding during a May 2 board meeting.

Commissioners were worried about duplication of services by the group and whether it was a one-time request that would grow into an annual one.

Daughtery also questioned the role of Wayne Uplift, which Wood has recommended to receive $38,800.

It is basically support for the battered women's shelter, Wood said.

Daughtery also asked if it was receiving free rent in a county building. It is not, Wood said.

It does store clothing and other items in a building in the parking lot at the County Office Building, Wood said.

"Most of the time it is the wife and children, and they are taken out of the home, perhaps in the middle of the night, with nothing but the clothes on their back," said Clerk to the Board Carol Bowden. "Wayne Uplift will provide them with toiletries. They will provide the woman with clothing so that she can continue to go to work if she has a job. It will help give her the opportunity to go get a job.

"They provide clothing for the children and school supplies so that they can go back to school. Household items, they literally help them start all over. But first they protect them in some sort of environment that the general public doesn't have access to so that person who abused them does not have access either."

Communities in Schools is the only agency that would receive a restoration of funds in Wood's budget. It was among the programs cut by 3 percent in the current budget, Wood said.

"That is a great program," Wood said. "When you look at the statistics, and I recommend that you read it, the graduation rates -- the improvements they have made in that. I think we ought to support that."

Wood also explained why he is recommending continued funding of the Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield at $10,000.

"We actually own that," Wood said. "These guys did a great service for us because all we do is pay for the materials and they go out there and maintain everything."

While it does support the group, it is also a cost savings to the county, Wood said.

Tuesday's meeting was recessed until 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 30, when the board will continue its budget discussions.

The meeting is open to the public and will be held in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the Wayne County Courthouse Annex.

A copy of the budget is available for public inspection in the county manager's office on the fourth floor of the Wayne County Courthouse Annex.