Watauga Commissioners Vote on Nonprofit Funding, Special Appropriations at Budget Work Session Tuesday

Published Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 11:00 am

By Jesse Wood

May 14, 2014. Within a $57-million budget, the line items that seem to elicit the most responses from members of the public are those regarding Watauga County allocations to nonprofits and other special appropriations.

Not counting the funding to the Watauga County Humane Society, which the county is contracted to fund because it cares for animals brought in by Watauga County Animal Care and Control, the county administration’s recommended allocation totals about $150,000. (That recommendation total is usually based on the level of funding of the prior year.) The requested amount from nonprofits – again not counting the humane society – is about $300,000.

Each year during budget season, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners go down the nonprofit allocation list one by one – just as they did during a budget work session on Tuesday afternoon.

The commissioners – even those within the same party – have differing views on funding nonprofits. Chair Nathan Miller voted for a zero allocation for just about every single of the 20 organizations that requested funding.

“I have a philosophy that doesn’t jive with this,” Miller said.

Miller, however, is quick to point out that many – if not all – of these nonprofits do “good work.”

In response to Commissioner Billy Kennedy’s positive comment about The Children’s Playhouse, Miller responded, “I’m not saying they are a bad organization, but why should the county fund it?”

Commissioner Perry Yates talked about the lack of equitability in the current format and how it was difficult choosing to fund one nonprofit over another. Yates said instead of basically “extorting” taxpayers to fund these nonprofits with taxpayer funds, the funding of nonprofits should be up to the individual – and not the government.

While noting the “unacceptable” poverty rate, Kennedy said that commissioners need to look at the needs of the citizens that the nonprofits serve and look at cost the county avoids because of nonprofits willing to step in and help those in need.

One thing Commissioner John Welch, who is a known advocate for recreation, asked – essentially rhetorically – about whenever the funding requests regarded the parks and recreation departments for the Town of Blowing Rock or the Town of Beech Mountain was, “How much did they receive from the redistribution of the sales tax?” Both received between $300,000 and $500,000 in extra funds with the switch to ad valorem enacted for the current fiscal year.

Below is a listing of the special appropriations that the commissioners voted upon on Tuesday afternoon. The budget doesn’t become official until it is adopted in June – after a public hearing is scheduled for May. See the entire recommended budget here.


Beech Mountain Parks and Recreation

  • Requested: $5,000
  • Staff Recommended: $2,500
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $0 (unanimous)

Watauga County Arts Council

  • Requested: $10,000
  • Recommended: $8,800
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $8,800 (4 to 1 with Miller lone nay vote)

Blowing Rock Parks and Recreation

  • Requested: $44,750
  • Recommended: $15,000
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $12,000 (4 to 1 with Miller lone nay vote)

Watauga Opportunities

  • Requested: $33,000
  • Recommended: $33,000
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $33,000 (unanimous)

 Southern Appalachian Historical Association

  • Requested: $25,500
  • Recommended: $12,000
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $12,000 (4 to 1 with Miller lone nay vote)

The Children’s Playhouse

  • Requested: $2,500
  • Recommended: $2,500
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $0 (3 to 2 along party lines)

Split along party lines, Miller, Blust and Yates voted for zero funding to The Children’s Playhouse, while Kennedy and Welch voted for the $2,500 in funding that was granted the prior year.

Miller and County Manager Deron Geouque said that The Children’s Playhouse was initially funded as seed money to help the establishment get off the ground. However, The Children’s Playhouse Executive Director Kathy Parham who was present for that portion of the meeting denied that that was the case.

Foscoe Grandfather Community Center

  • Requested: $16,500
  • Recommended: $5,000
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $5,000 (4 to 1 with Miller lone nay vote)

Valle Crucis Community Park

  • Requested: $16,000
  • Recommended: $15,000
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $15,000 (4 to 1 with Miller lone nay vote)

Green Valley Community Park

  • Requested: $15,000
  • Recommended: $8,000
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $8,000 (4 to 1 with Miller lone nay vote)

Watauga County Humane Society

  • Requested: $85,000
  • Recommended: $80,356
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $80,356*

*Contracted rate for caring for animals brought in by the Watauga County Animal Control 

Children’s Council

  • Requested: $17,000
  • Recommended: $0
  • Preliminary Board Approval:  $0 (All but Kennedy voted for zero funding)

Crime Stoppers

  • Requested: $500
  • Recommended:  $0
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $0

Hospitality House

  • Requested: $26,280
  • Recommended: $0
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $0 (3-2, split along party lines)

Yates, Blust and Miller – the three commissioners that voted for zero funding to the organization – all mentioned negatives about the Hospitality House. Blust said that it has brought crime to that part of Watauga County and that the Hospitality House is an invitation to people all over the state that “this is a place that will take care of me.”

Yates said that Watauga County shouldn’t be paying for and housing the homeless of Avery County’s and Caldwell County’s homeless people. Hospitality House serves a seven-county region in Northwestern North Carolina.

Hospitality House’s WeCAN

  • Requested: $10,000
  • Recommended: $2,500
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $2,500 (4 to 1 with Miller lone nay vote)

OASIS

  • Requested: $10,000
  • Recommended: $10,000
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $10,000 (4 to 1 with Miller lone nay vote)

While Miller said that OASIS does good work, he said the organization spends resources “representing people it shouldn’t be representing.” Miller, a lawyer, said that he sees OASIS representing people in court “where no real domestic violence” took place. For example, he said one of the cases involved a college kid texting this girl too many times. He added that he wasn’t trying to “belittle” domestic violence.

Kennedy shot back that Miller shouldn’t cherry pick one example of somebody “gaming the system” and halt funding.

“The federal government doesn’t stop funding highways when someone speeds,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy added that OASIS is a great resource for people in terrible situations and noted that Deputy William Mast was killed in the line of duty in 2012 when responding to a domestic situation in the Deep Gap area.

Blust suggested maintaining the funding while sending a communication to OASIS leadership about Miller’s concerns.

Western Youth Network

  • Requested: $10,000
  • Recommended: $1,500
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $1,500*

*Yates and Blust voted for $1,500, while Kennedy and Welch voted for $3,000. With Miller voting for zero, no tiebreaker existed and the allocation remained at $1,500 – the same as last year. 

Hunger Coalition

  • Requested: $16,000
  • Recommended: $8,500
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $8,500 (4 to 1 with Miller lone nay vote)

Community Care Clinic

  • Requested: $25,000
  • Recommended: $17,000
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $17,000 (4 to 1 with Miller lone nay vote)

Mountain Alliance

  • Requested: $17,500
  • Recommended: $10,000
  • Preliminary Board Approval: $10,000

The image below was created prior to amendments made by the commissioners during the budget work session on Tuesday.

Nonprofits

This is prior to amendments during the budget work session on Tuesday.

 

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