By Jesse Wood
May 13, 2013. At its second budget work session, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners voted for appropriations to nonprofits on Monday evening.
Through the course of the two work sessions with commissioners, the budget hasn’t strayed too far from the county manager’s recommended budget. (See entire recommended budget and highlights here.) Yet, the nonprofit allocations are always a debated and contentious topic during budget season.
Because Commissioner David Blust was absent during this portion of the Thursday’s work session, the commissioners went over appropriations that were deadlocked. In all, the commissioners, through the works sessions, reduced nonprofit funding from recommended levels by $17,829. (The Republican commissioners – Chair Nathan Miller, Perry Yates and Blust – voted to put that $17,829 into its capital improvement plan for future needs, while Commissioners John Welch and Billy Kennedy voted to use that $17,829 for a 1 percent supplement to teachers.)
During Monday’s meeting, Miller, while adding that “none of these are bad services,” echoed a statement he has made since he has been in office: “A nonprofit needs to stand on its own.”
Democrat Commissioners John Welch and Billy Kennedy both referenced the county’s sales tax switch to an ad valorem tax basis, which will cause the Town of Boone to lose $2 million in sales tax revenue. Welch said that he doesn’t expect any nonprofits to receive funding from the Town of Boone in the upcoming budget.
“I think a lot of these [nonprofits] need a shot in the arm,” Welch said.
More than once Commissioner Perry Yates, especially with Blust absent on Thursday, strayed from Miller’s side and met the Democrat commissioners in the middle.
As far as special allocations for nonprofits, here’s how the proposed budget stands for now.
A public hearing for the proposed $55.8 million budget is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21, at 6 p.m. for citizen comment.
Beech Mountain Parks and Recreation To Receive $2,500
Based on what was allocated last year and what was requested this year, Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque recommended $2,500 for Beech Mountain Parks and Recreation.
In a reference to the sales tax and the fact that Beech Mountain, Blowing Rock and Seven Devils are to receive extra monies with the switch to an ad valorem tax basis, Commissioner Billy Kennedy questioned why Beech Mountain Parks and Recreation, for example, is receiving special appropriations.
Watauga County Arts Council To Receive $8,800
With Blust absent on Thursday, Commissioners Perry Yates, John Welch and Kennedy voted for Watauga County Arts Council to receive an $8,800 allocation, which is what the nonprofit requested.
Commissioner Nathan Miller voted against the $8,800 to WCAC. At the last commissioners meeting, the board agreed to lease a county-owned building to WCAC for $1 per year.
Blowing Rock Parks and Recreation To Receive $15,000
The board agreed to give Blowing Rock Parks and Recreation $15,000, which is what the group has received the past two years. The organization requested $17,500.
Watauga Opportunities To Receive $33,000
The board unanimously approved to allocate $33,000 to Watauga Opportunities. This is the amount that was requested and what the organization has received for the past two years.
Southern Appalachian Historical Association To Receive $12,000
With Blust absent on Thursday, the board agreed 3-1 to fund SAHA $12,000 in the 2013-14 fiscal year budget. Miller voted to decrease funding to SAHA.
SAHA requested $20,000. This $12,000 is in addition to the emergency funding of $8,400 that the board of commissioners agreed to at its last monthly board meeting.
The Children’s Playhouse To Receive $2,500
Yates met Democrat Commissioners Welch and Kennedy in the middle and agreed to fund The Children’s Playhouse $2,500. The Children’s playhouse requested $5,000 and the county manager’s recommended budget included an allocation of zero.
Yates, who was unfamiliar with the organization’s work at Thursday’s meeting, said he had “done due diligence.” Initially, he said he would be willing to give them at least $1,500. After Welch and Kennedy expressed that they would like to see them funded to the tune of $5,000, Yates agreed with $2,500.
Parent to Parent To Receive ZERO
Parent to Parent requested $2,000 and the county manager’s recommended budget did not include the organization’s request. All four commissioners present at Thursday’s meeting agreed not to fund Parent to Parent in the 2013-14 fiscal year budget.
Foscoe-Grandfather Community Center To Receive $1,000
Foscoe-Grandfather Community Center requested $18,600. It received $1,000. On Thursday, Miller didn’t want to fund them. Yates, Kennedy and Welch voted to allocate $1,000 for the center. Yates said the $1,000 was to help them cover the mowing costs. On Monday, Commissioner Blust chimed in that he wanted to fund them $1,500, yet he didn’t get the votes. Kennedy noted that he would like to see them raise rates for usage of the facilities to pay for upkeep. Blust concurred.
Valle Crucis Community Park To Receive $15,000
Commissioners noted in its vote for the Valle Crucis Community Park to receive $15,000 that the county uses the park. Valle Crucis Community Park requested $18,000 and the county manager recommended $16,000.
Green Valley Community Park To Receive $4,000
In an effort to trim the nonprofit allocations, the majority of commissioners – Yates, Kennedy and Welch – voted to reduce Green Valley funding to $4,000. Miller voted to decrease that and Blust was absent. Green Valley Community Park requested $15,000 and the county manager recommended $10,000, which was approved the past two years.
Watauga Humane Society To Receive $79,482
The agency requested $100,501. The county manager recommended $79,842, which is essentially what the county is contracted to provide since it cares for animals brought in by Watauga County Animal Care and Control.
Children’s Council To Receive ZERO
With Blust absent on Thursday, the majority of commissioners agreed to fund the Children’s Council zero dollars in the 2013-14 fiscal year budget. On Monday, Welch said he would like to revisit that vote because the Town of Boone funded the organization $5,000 last year and is not expected to fund them this year because of the sales tax shortfall. However, that vote was not revisited.
Foster Grandparent Program To Receive ZERO
Foster Grandparent Program requested $1,100, however it doesn’t look like the program will receive the requested funding. The county manager didn’t recommend the $1,100. Miller, Yates and Blust agreed to no funding, while Kennedy and Welch voted for the requested amount. Miller said, “We already fund the Project on Aging.” To which, Blust added that problems of “double dipping” happened last year. Kennedy mentioned cuts associated with the federal sequester. To end the debate with the final vote, Yates said, “Take it to zero.”
Hospitality House To Receive ZERO
Once again as it has for the past two years, the Hospitality House of Boone receives zero dollars in funding in the budget. It requested $23,360. On Thursday, Kennedy tried to negotiate for at least $5,000 and Welch sided with his fellow Democratic commissioner. Miller and Yates voted for zero dollars in funding. With Blust absent, the commissioners were deadlocked. On Monday, Blust ended that by siding with his Republican commissioners.
Hospitality House WeCAN To Receive $2,500
Hospitality House WeCAN requested $10,000. The county manager recommended $1,000. On Thursday, the commissioners were deadlocked 2-2 with Blust absent. Miller and Yates voted to not fund the organization, while Kennedy and Welch voted to fund it $5,000. On Monday, Blust said, “I don’t want to fund it zero.” Then Yates asked, “What do you say they do?” County Manager Deron Geouque noted that the program, which is administered by the Hospitality House, was started because people were taking advantage of the system by hopping to different churches for extra services. Kennedy added that the Hospitality House WeCAN essentially put the program on “one database.” Welch added, “A lot of people in the county take advantage of this and not in a bad way.” Blust met the two Democrats in the middle, settling on $2,500 in funds.
OASIS To Receive $10,000
The county manager recommended OASIS’ request of $10,000. On Thursday, Miller voted to decrease that recommended funding. Yates, Welch and Kennedy voted to keep the level funding, which OASIS has received for the past two years. The board also voted – as recommended by the county manager – to not fund the OASIS Building Grant Match.
Hunger Coalition To Receive $6,000
The Hunger Coalition requested $16,000. The county manager recommended $14,000 in funding, and the board unanimously voted (with Blust absent on Thursday) to reduce that amount to $6,000. The board cited that the Hunger Coalition already receives free rent on the old Hannah Building and rents out space to the Community Care Clinic for $12,000. Yates also noted that churches do a great job of providing food for those in need.
Community Care Clinic To Receive $17,000
The Community Care Clinic requested $25,044, and the county manager’s office recommended $22,500. On Thursday at its first budget work session, Miller motioned to decrease the recommended funding by $7,000. Miller added that he didn’t want to “cut it too much” at once because that would shock the financials of the organization.
Welch noted that he would go with a $4,000 cut. So Yates opted, once again, to meet in the middle. Kennedy, Welch, Miller and Yates voted for the Community Care Clinic to receive $17,000.
Mountain Alliance To Receive $8,700
Mountain Alliance requested $17,500. However, the county manager’s office recommended an allocation of $15,000, which prior commissioners approved the last two years. After some haggling, Yates, Welch and Kennedy agreed upon an $8,700 allocation. Miller opted for a larger decrease.
Western Youth Network To Receive ZERO
The Western Youth Network requested $6,000. The county manager’s office recommended funding of $3,300. At Thursday’s work session, Welch and Kennedy voted for the $3,300. Miller opted for zero in funding, while Yates was willing to meet somewhere near the middle with $1,750. He mentioned that while Blust was absent, he would vote for $1,750. The Democratic commissioners – Welch and Kennedy – didn’t jump on the $1,750 funding level on Thursday. So the vote was deadlocked.
On Monday, Blust asked Miller what was his “rational” for voting the way he did. Miller said, “A nonprofit needs to stand on its own.” Blust replied, “I am OK with zero.” Yates sided with Miller and Blust.