City trims nonprofit funding|Other agencies retain existing funding levels

Published 12:47 am Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Contributing Editor

Funding from the city of Washington for most nonprofit groups and charities will decline in the upcoming fiscal year.
During its budget work session Monday, the council trimmed $1,900 from the proposed appropriation for three agencies. Half of that $1,900 was earmarked to help bring The Wall That Heals — a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. — to the original Washington next April. Earlier this year, the city pledged $2,000 toward the project.
The council reduced the city’s allocation to the Beaufort County Arts Council from a proposed $24,100 to $22,500. It also reduced the proposed allocation for the Human Relations Council from $1,400 to $1,200. The proposed allocation for the Purpose of God Annex was reduced from $1,900 to $1,800.
While most of the other agencies saw their funding cut by 7 percent, the Zion Shelter and Soup Kitchen’s funding was kept at its current allocation of $10,500. The council kept the city’s allocation to Eagle’s Wings, which distributes food and provides other assistance to poor people, at $2,000.
Mayor Pro Tempore Doug Mercer said he did not want to cut the shelter’s funding because it provides a much-needed service for homeless people. As for cutting BCAC’s funding, Mercer said it makes sense to wean it from city funding now that it’s capable of obtaining money from other sources.
Councilman Archie Jennings agreed, noting the city provides office space for BCAC offices at no cost to BCAC. Mercer concurred, noting the value of office space the city provides to certain agencies at no cost.
Jennings said the nonprofit groups and other agencies that receive funds from the city must realize the city is “less and less capable” of providing funding at previous levels.
“We shouldn’t be a primary funding organization,” Jennings said.
In other business, the council appropriated $15,000 for a popular program that helps improve eligible properties in downtown Washington.
The facade-improvement program, which the city has administered for 17 years, provides half the cost of an approved project, up to $2,000. However, businesses located on corners or bearing front and rear facades used to receive up to $4,000 — or $2,000 for each facade, but now receive $2,000 total.
The program, which began in fiscal year 1991-1992, awarded 143 grants totaling $256,660 through fiscal year 2007-2008, according to city records. The total cost of improvements made to the downtown properties during that period came to $1,164,784, according to city records. There were no grants awarded in fiscal year 2003-2004.
The council is expected to adopt the 2009-2010 budget Monday.