City reduces funding for outside agencies

Published 6:02 pm Thursday, March 31, 2016

Outside agencies that receive funding from the City of Washington will see that funding reduced by 10 percent when the new fiscal year starts July 1.

The Zion Shelter and Soup Kitchen was exempted from that reduction.

The City Council made that decision, by way of a 4-1 vote, during its meeting Monday night. Mayor Pro Tempore Virginia Finnerty opposes the across-the-board cuts, saying she prefers allocating city dollars to those agencies on a case-by-case basis. Finnerty, who works for Arts of the Pamlico (one of the agencies that receives city funding), said not providing adequate funding for the agencies goes against the city’s stated mission.

Finnerty read that mission statement, which includes the following passage: “Quality of life for residents and visitors shall be of paramount consideration.” She continued, “Given what our mission is, if we vote not to fund, or reduce our support for any of these organizations, we are not being true to our mission and, therefore, not doing our job. Every single organization on this speaks to our mission.”

Finnerty said the agencies help provide social services, promote cultural resources and enhance economic-development activities in the city.

Councilman Doug Mercer said giving the agencies the same funding ($159,075) in the next fiscal year that they currently receive equates to 2 cents on the city’s property-tax rate. Mercer said, “ … the purpose of the city is to provide services by the city. None of these agencies are city agencies. They are organizations that are run by non-city employees and not subject to city oversight. So, if we fund them, unless we get a budget, a commitment and an annual audit, we have no idea what this money goes for.”

Mercer reminded Finnerty that it’s been the intent of the council, for several years, to reduce the amount of city dollars the agencies receive.

Mercer noted that Arts of the Pamlico has assets of $629,000 and The Blind Center has $529,000 “in the bank.” Arts of the Pamlico asked the city for $50,000. The Blind Center requested $1,500. “If they’ve got those kinds of funds in reserve, we ought not to be giving them more money to put in the bank,” Mercer said. “We’ve got needs at the city level that we’re not able to fund because we don’t have the funds.”

Finnerty replied: “Councilman Mercer, how much money do we have in the bank, in reserves? … It’s in the millions.” She also said the city’s mission statement does not preclude the city from helping the outside agencies.

Councilman Larry Beeman, saying he is not willing to raise taxes to provide funding for the outside agencies at the expense of meeting city needs, made the motion to fund the outside agencies in the next fiscal year at 10-percent less than they received this fiscal year. Beeman said that when it comes to city dollars, city officials must keep in mind there are 289 city employees who are looking for raises and the city has facilities it must maintain so they don’t deteriorate. “If we continue down the path they we’re going without looking out for those people, those buildings and those brick-and-mortar structures first, then the quality of life, as our mission statement says, is going to deteriorate even worse than it is,” he said.

Beeman and Mercer said the Zion Shelter, which has a history of running low on funds at times, deserves continued city support.

Currently, the 13 outside agencies and economic-development entities receive a combined $159,075 in city dollars. Under the 10-percent reduction move, that amount would fall to $143,168.

The council’s action allocates city dollars as follows: Beaufort County Boys & Girls Club, $12,960; Wright Flight, $2,835; The Blind Center, $1,013; Eagle’s Wings, $810; Purpose of God Outreach Center, $16,200; Cornerstone Community Learning Center, $8,100; Beaufort-Hyde-Martin Regional Library, $7,020; Washington Harbor District Alliance, $50,220; Highway 17 Association, $6,750; North Carolina Estuarium, $16,200; Arts of the Pamlico, $12,960 and the Washington Christmas parade (organized by the Washington Kiwanis Club), $1,215.

The allocation for the Zion Shelter will be decided during the next several weeks as the council works on the upcoming budget.






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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