County spending millions on donations to nonprofits

July 21, 2006|by DANIEL MOELLER

To the editor:

As of May 11, there were 56 nonprofit organizations eligible to receive county funds under public local law. This letter is based on the information that the county attorney sent to me in May. The County Commissioners must give at least $3,656,982 every year to eligible nonprofit organizations if the law is not changed.

The county taxpayers will have contributed more than $60 million to the eligible nonprofit organizations during the 12 fiscal years from FY 1996 to FY 2007, whether they wanted to or not. This money was in addition to distributions totaling almost $3 million that were made to nonprofit organizations from the Gaming Fund during just a two year period, FY 2004 and FY 2005, and very generous distributions that were made during other fiscal years.

Involuntary taxpayers' contributions to nonprofit organizations of more than $7.2 million in FY 2006 and more than $7.6 million in the budget for FY 2007, excluding distributions from the gaming fund, are much higher than the appropriations of about $5.5 million made in FY 2004 and the appropriations of about $5.9 million made in FY 2005, and almost twice as much as the $3,656,982 required. The law does not set an upper limit on contributions, so the five commissioners may give a lot more of our money to their favorite, eligible, nonprofit organizations.


I believe that some nonprofit organizations may do great work. But I also think that the law should be changed to protect all taxpayers from involuntarily contributing to the commissioners' favorite eligible non-profit organizations without any checks or limits. All aspects of the role that the County Commissioners play in funding nonprofit organizations should be reviewed to prevent abuses from occurring.

Only 16 of the 56 eligible nonprofit organizations will get county funds this fiscal year. I encourage the commissioners to post on the county's Web site the names of all 56 eligible nonprofit organizations and the amounts that the commissioners have voted to give this year to each of the 16 lucky nonprofit organizations so that all taxpayers can see how their $7.6 million-plus will be, or already has been, spent.

On June 24, this newspaper printed a letter of mine about the county's $20,000 grant to a nonprofit organization, Discovery Station. On July 8, this newspaper printed a letter by Marie Byers which referred to my earlier letter.

I encourage everyone to read and/or reread both letters and, if you want to spend the money, then go visit Discovery Station.

Based on the information that I received after I submitted my letter, I now believe that Discovery Station may have been added to the list of recognized nonprofit organizations on May 2, 2000. I apologize for my mistake.

I do wish that the commissioners had considered purchasing $20,000 of very high-quality DVDs from the History Channel, the Science Channel, the Nation Geographic Channel and even the Discovery Channel for free viewing by tens of thousands of public school children year after year in lieu of giving a one- year grant to the Discovery Station, which charges admission.

That idea was never publicly discussed during the commissioners' April 18, 2006, meeting.

Daniel Moeller

(Editor's note: The writer is a candidate for Washington County Commissioner.)

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