Council mulling funding for outside agencies

Published 6:06 pm Thursday, January 30, 2014

One member of the Washington City Council wants to reduce city funding to nonprofit groups it currently funds by 50 percent and not provide funds to any new outside agencies.

Councilman Doug Mercer made those suggestions during the council’s meeting Monday. In recent years, the council has reduced funding to entities such as the Beaufort County Arts Council and Eagle’s Wings (a local food pantry that serves the poor). Last spring, the council served notice that future city budgets could reduce funding — if not eliminate funding — for some or all of the nonprofits it has traditionally funded in recent years.

“We need to reduce our contributions to outside agencies,” Mercer said Monday. “I think last year during our (budget) discussions, we said that was a goal we were going to set for this year: to reduce them by 50 percent. … I realize that there are one or two of the agencies that we fund that we would continue to fund at the current level, but there are many of them that we need to start looking at reducing them.”

Mercer said he would like to see the budgets of the outside agencies the city provides funding to so the city can see how its money is being spent by those agencies.

“I’d like to get a budget up here that says, ‘We’re going to spend $60,000, and we’re expecting ($50,000) from the city, and we’re going to pay that to our executive director.’ Then they’re telling you the city is funding that position. I really think we need to look at their budgets so we have a feel for what they’re spending the money for,” Mercer said.

City Manager Brian Alligood said city staff could provide that information to the council and mayor.

“That’s part of what we ask when the fill out those outside-agency request forms — that they show us where that (requested) money is going and any reportables they have on that,” Alligood said.

The city manager said he and city staff needed guidance from the council when it comes to determining which outside agencies would lose all their funding, which ones would see their city dollars reduced and which nonprofits would not see their funding reduced or eliminated.

Mercer said he would like to see city funds for the Zion Shelter and Kitchen remain at its current level, saying it provides a much-needed service.

Council member William Pitt addressed Mercer’s suggestions regarding funding for nonprofits.

“One thing that I’m really concerned with is … to reduce the (funding for) outside agencies by 50 percent,” Pitt said. “We had talked about (reducing) by 10 percent a year and doing it over time. When you take away half of something at one time, that’s a pretty (substantial) stretch for a lot of organizations that depend on the city and that we have been partners with. A lot of our partners are very good partners. We have taken on a few new partners, but everyone is aware of how the budget is. Fifty percent, I believe, initially, is way too much of a decrease for some of our older, longstanding agencies. We just need to look at these agencies and an individual agency as to community impact, how it affects the city and how long we’ve been a partner with this agency.”

Pitt agrees with Mercer on the city not funding any new outside agencies.


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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