Starting at zero: City’s allocations to outside agencies are not guaranteed

Published 7:31 pm Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Outside agencies seeking funding from the city are being closely scrutinized by the Washington City Council in regard with what they do with the funds they receive.

This budget-preparation season, the council continues to send the message it began sending about a year ago: no guarantees with regard to receiving city money.

“For the outside agencies, each council member ought to send in what they think the outside agency is going to be funded, whether it’s not going to be funded, whatever, in preparation for the upcoming budget,” Councilman Bobby Roberson said during the council’s meeting Monday.

In recent weeks, the council has addressed funding for outside agencies, including hearing presentations from the agencies and discussing options to providing direct cash contributions to the agencies that receive funding.

“My understanding … is we’re going to plug in where they were last year and during budget workshops that would be a section that would be debated by City Council,” City Manager Brian Alligood said. “We’ll be glad to change it with whatever ya’ll come up with.”

Alligood continued: “I’m not sure — if I get a handful of different requests, all I can do is regurgitate that back to you.”

Roberson replied: “Well, that would be good.”

Councilman Richard Brooks offered a suggestion.

“I know that these (agencies) are asking for funding. I truly think before we do that we need to search out and plan for our city residents how we’re going to use our funding first before we go down that road. I think we need to know where we are and what we need to do before we start going down that (outside agencies funding) road. That’s just me,” Brooks said.

Alligood said the proposed budget that will go to the council in a few weeks reflects the funding the agencies received for the current fiscal year.

“As you get our recommended budget, you’ll be able to make those cuts or ads to any of those programs or any of those items,” he said.

Councilman Doug Mercer said he understands Alligood’s desire to have “number in there to start out with a balance and then it’s easy to correct.”

“But, if you recall, this council voted last spring, voted and passed, that we would tell all requesting agencies that they would start with a zero request this year and we would allocate based on their presentations. I want this council to remember that discussion because we did it,” he said.

“You did have that discussion, then at the last meeting we were instructed to put the number back in and ya’ll would debate that during budget workshops,” Alligood said.

Brooks said he recalls that discussion.

“I also know that our house, which is the city government, I think we should get that prepared, get in on solid ground before we talk about doing something for someone else. I believe you should take care of your house first, and then work on the outside second. If you put the outside before your house, to me, that’s wrong. I think you should work on your house first and get it situated and then work on outside (items). That’s my synopsis of the thing,” Brooks said.

Mercer replied: “You’re preaching to the choir, Richard.”



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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