Cash, credit or other options?: Council to consider funding for agencies during budget sessions
Published 8:05 pm Thursday, March 12, 2015
Outside agencies seeking funding from Washington will have to wait until the City Council begins conducting budget work sessions to find out what, if any, funding they might receive.
During its meeting Monday, the council decided it will discuss and make those funding decision during its upcoming budget work sessions. The council also is considering doing away with direct contributions of money to the outside agencies and replace that current practice with another option: possibly using money from utilities funds or taking money from the general fund and applying those funds (probably on a monthly basis) toward the agencies’ utility bills.
Councilman Doug Mercer noted that during the agencies’ presentations to the council on Feb. 2 it became apparent the agencies (or at least many of them) said they plan to use city money to pay their utility bills.
“Is it possible for us to make the contribution as a credit toward their utility bill?” Mercer asked City Manager Brian Alligood.
“I guess you could, but you would be impacting the electric fund. You would be directly charging all of that, and it would directly impact only the electric fund,” Alligood said.
“It would impact water and sewer also,” Mercer said.
“You’re right. The majority of it would be electric fund,” Alligood said.
“I agree,” replied Mercer.
“You’re right. You would be impacting your enterprise funds,” Alligood said.
Councilman Bobby Mercer said providing financial assistance to the agencies would be “a lot simpler by taking it off the utility account. … I’m not saying I’m for it or against it; I’m just opening it up for discussion. I’m trying to get some dialogue from other members of the council on that.”
Alligood said he is concerned with using the word “credit” and would prefer making transfers from the utility (electric, water, sewer and the like) funds to the agencies to preserve current accounting practices related to keeping track of revenues coming into the utility funds.
“If we just showed a transfer out of that (utility funds) to those (agencies), they still got to pay that revenue coming back,” Alligood said.
Mercer suggested that replacing direct cash contributions with an alternative such as a credit would give the city more control over how city money is used by the agencies. The council members and city staff discussed several other options, including using general-fund money and pay the utilities bills of the agencies.
The outside agencies, which include organizations such as the Zion Shelter, Beaufort County Arts Council and Eagle’s Wings, are asking for a combined $183,470.
In October 2014, the council decided outside agencies would have to make their cases for city funding.
The council has made it clear to the outside agencies that they will be starting from “zero” when it comes to being assured of receiving city dollars.
Outside agencies, such as the Zion Shelter, that meet certain needs not met or partially met by other entities would stand a better chance of receiving city money than agencies that don’t meet those needs or duplicate services provided by other entities, according to some council members.