Nonprofit leaders who requested a funding increase from Carroll County government in the upcoming fiscal year can take a tentative sigh of relief.
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to unrestrict revenue normally appropriated for the Community Media Center and reallocate it for increases to nine of the 11 nonprofits funded by county government in Fiscal Year 2016.
This money — which is expected to be about $2 million through FY21, or roughly $400,000 annually — comes from the Cable Franchise Fees collected by Comcast and paid to county government.
"This will cover everything including shelters, and it also gives increases to several nonprofits," said Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2.
Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, cast the lone dissenting vote.
Tuesday's decision — as are all of the commissioners' decisions during these budget sessions — is just a starting point and is in no way finalized, said Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5.
Howard proposed the idea to increase nonprofit funding at a meeting last Thursday.
Previously, the board had planned incremental decreases in funding to the nonprofits through FY20, including a 7.3 percent decrease across the board this upcoming fiscal year.
Instead, under the new plan, seven of the nonprofits would receive flat funding in FY16 from FY15, while Human Services Programs of Carroll County and Rape Crisis Intervention Services would receive increases.
From FY17 through FY21, all of the county's nonprofits, with the exception of Access Carroll, would receive at least 1 percent increases annually.
One of the main considerations which affected the outcome of the vote was HSP's state and grant funding shortfalls in recent years, which have put its continued operation of the county's shelters in jeopardy.
Zaleski said his staff estimated that, if Carroll government had to take over operation of the county's shelters, it would cost at least $1.4 million annually, but expects it could be much more.
HSP has access to grants, a volunteer workforce and donations that the county would "most likely not get," he said.
Weaver, who seconded Commissioner Dennis Frazier's motion to unrestrict this funding, said it would be fiscally irresponsible if they did not adequately fund HSP's efforts to operate the shelters.
"I don't want to be in the shelter business as a commissioner," Weaver said.
During the previous budget session, Howard proposed using additional contributions to the county's Other Postemployment Benefit program — which is $150,000 in FY16, as well as additional and accumulating payments of $150,000 through FY21 — to account for these funding increases, but staff identified that this would not be enough to fund all requests, Zaleski said.
However, additional OPEB contributions combined with the now unrestricted Cable Franchise Fee will be more than enough to cover these increases in out years, Zaleski said.
Janice Kispert, CEO of Rape Crisis Intervention Services, said that while she is pleased the commissioners have tentatively approved a 5 percent funding increase in FY16, this will only allow her to "catch up on bills."
"It's refreshing that the commissioners are revisiting [nonprofit funding] and have heard the nonprofits," Kispert said. "Not that I'm ungrateful, but county funding has remained relatively flat over the years, and other things like grants, fundraising and donations are down. It's not enough to get ahead; we are still treading water."
Cindy Parr, executive director of HSP, said she would prefer to hold off until the budget was finalized before commenting on the proposed increase, which would equal about a $375,000 funding increase to HSP compared to staff's recommended FY16 budget.
Community Media Center Executive Director Marion Ware, during CMC's meeting with the commissioners last month, asked the board for an additional $2.5 million, including $1 million in FY16, to upgrade equipment to broadcast in high definition.
Ware was unavailable for comment by 5 p.m. Tuesday regarding the commissioners decision to unrestrict money collected through Cable Franchise Fees.
Sherry Taylor, the CMC's marketing director, noted that nothing has been finalized and the organization is looking forward to working with the commissioners supporting the center's need to upgrade in order to continue providing a valuable service to residents of Carroll County.
Times staff writer S. Wayne Carter Jr. contributed to this article.
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