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Agency funding debated

Only one outside agency requesting money from the City of Washington during the 2012-2013 fiscal year is receiving the amount it sought.

City Manager Josh Kay’s recommended amounts for those agencies were discussed by the City Council during its meeting Tuesday. In a nonbinding vote, the council OK’d the recommended amounts.

Funds for those agencies won’t be allocated until the council adopts a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

One outside agency, the Washington Community Care Coalition, is earmarked to receive $250 despite not submitting a request for funding.

Councilman Edward Moultrie’s suggestion to reduce the allocation of $25,000 to the Purpose of God Annex to $24,000 and increase the allocation to the Zion Shelter from $5,000 to $6,000 was endorsed by the council.

A list of other outside agencies slated to receive city dollars, the amounts they requested and the amounts that Kay recommends they receive follow:

  • Washington Harbor District Alliance, requested $66,000, recommended to receive $66,000.
  • Beaufort County Arts Council, requested $24,000, recommended to receive $16,000.
  • Beaufort County Boys & Girls Club, requested $35,000, recommended to receive $16,000.
  • Wright Flight, requested $5,000, recommended to receive $3,500.
  • East Carolina Wildfowl Guild, requested $7,900, recommended to receive $7,045.
  • The Blind Center, requested $2,500, recommended to receive $1,000.
  • Eagle’s Wings, requested $3,000, recommended to receive $1,000.
  • Human Relations Council, requested $1,500, recommended to receive $1,000.

Some council members made it clear they are prepared to wean some outside agencies from city dollars. Councilman Bobby Roberson wants the outside agencies to be more accountable with how they spend city dollars while they are receiving city dollars.

“I’ve looked at where it says miscellaneous salaries and expenses. To me, we get questions about that all the time. I think, fundamentally, if we’re going to fund these agencies — and I’m going to talk a little bit about that — I think on the accountability side, it’s not our money, it’s the taxpayers’ money,” Roberson said. “I think we need to review this stuff as it comes in. If it raises a red flag, then I think we need to address those when they come up. The second thing is that I mentioned at the last budget session, and I’ll just put it in again, somewhere along the line, we have to tell these other outside agencies — we need to give them a time limit and say … unless the council wants to change it, we need to say, ‘Look, we’re going to fund you this year, but in the next four years we’re going to downsize these agencies.’ That’s the page I’m on. If the council doesn’t want to go along, that’s fine, but that’s basically where I’m coming from on that.”

Mayor Archie Jennings said if the city does begin reducing or eliminating funding for outside agencies, the city will work with those agencies to help them identify other funding sources. Kay said the city has notified outside agencies receiving city dollars that those dollars may be fewer or disappear in the coming years.

“When we see ‘miscellaneous’ or other expenses … that indicates to me we’re talking about operational funding,” Jennings said. “That’s something we should stay away from and coach them away from because otherwise they are becoming dependent upon the city as an operational funding source not a something over and above their normal set of expenses and whatnot, paying the light bill and that sort of thing. All these organizations need to be raising that money in the community.”

Jennings continued, “It would definitely be the wrong thing to turn off funding all at one time, but we need to help them find other funding sources, as you said, Mr. Manager, and move forward.”

Mercer said it’s time for the city to do more than just talk about weaning outside agencies from city dollars.

“We need to tell these people today that we’re going to work within the next three years, or the next five years, or whatever we decide, that you’re going to come down so much per year, and at the end of that time frame, you’re going to be on your own. Now, there are certain agencies that I feel we will need to support.”

Mercer specifically mentioned the Zion Shelter of deserving support from the city.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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