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Commissioners debate nonprofits' budget requests

May 09, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Nonprofit organizations were scrutinized Tuesday as the Washington County Commissioners reviewed requests for next year's budget.

The commissioners sifted through numerous budget line items in preparation for a public hearing this month.

The proposed fiscal year 2008 budget is $196 million, up 10 percent from this year.

The Washington County Commission on Aging's funding request, in particular, triggered a debate on prudent spending and government's role.

The commission asked for a 27 percent increase in funding for its Meals on Wheels program to pay for additional drivers and meals. A summary with the request says the program served 62 percent more meals in 2006.

The agency was one of several asking for more money this year, in some cases because of state funding cuts.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said cuts at higher levels of government force the county to step in and help.

"We get stuck with it all the time," he said.

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Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said local taxpayers are hurt, too, when they have to pay more.

Wivell agreed to the request for Meals on Wheels, but said county government would go "bankrupt" if it fills in every shortfall.

Commissioner Terry Baker said the county should impose limits for funding increases, not react to requests.

Some organizations' requests for more money were approved, such as 7 percent for Community Action Council, 3 percent for the Holly Place senior citizens group home and 3 percent for Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

Other requests were trimmed when the commissioners agreed with staff recommendations for cuts.

The Washington County Arts Council asked for an increase of $9,900, or 66 percent, to pay for higher rent, utilities and postage. The increase was cut to $500, or 3 percent.

The Washington County Historical Society asked for a funding increase from $11,000 this year to $33,850 next year to offset higher costs of fuel, utilities, maintenance and exhibits and to reopen the Beaver Creek School Museum.

County staff recommended $12,000.

Aleshire suggested a maximum of $15,000. The commissioners agreed to that level instead of inviting the historical society to explain its request.

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