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Commissioners agree to cut county's contributions to nonprofits by 2%

April 20, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Commissioners reached a consensus Tuesday to cut the county's contributions to nonprofit organizations by 2 percent next fiscal year.

The cut would apply to 13 nonprofit organizations, such as the Washington County Commission on Aging, CASA and the Washington County Community Action Council, that typically receive contributions from the county's general fund.

The cut would reduce the total contribution to those 13 groups from about $1.76 million to about $1.73 million, saving the county about $35,000.

The groups had been told to expect the same amount of funding in fiscal year 2011 as in fiscal year 2010, but Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire argued Tuesday that the organizations should share in the cuts applied to county departments' operating budgets, and Commissioners William J. Wivell and Terry Baker agreed.

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"If we're going to cut our internal departments that are necessary public services provided by the county general fund, I'd just think there should be some greater treatment of that across the board," Aleshire said.

In the proposed county budget, internal operating costs would be cut about 3.7 percent, county budget and finance director Debra S. Murray said.

Commissioners James F. Kercheval and John F. Barr were against cutting contributions to nonprofits because the county told the groups in a December letter that they could expect flat funding. Kercheval said most of the nonprofits already were facing much smaller budgets due to loss of other revenue and were counting on stable county funding.

The City of Hagerstown has proposed cutting its contributions to community causes and groups by 25 percent.

The county's proposed 2 percent cut would not apply to its proposed $16,000 contribution to the Miss Maryland organization, which is set by contract, or to its proposed $25,000 contribution to the Tri-County Council of Western Maryland, which cannot be changed without disrupting the funding balance between the three participating counties, the commissioners said. Allegany and Garrett counties are the other participants.

Proposed contributions before the 2 percent cut ranged from $10,000 for Leadership Washington County to $863,720 for the Commission on Aging. Most proposed contributions were between $15,000 and $40,000.

The commissioners also discussed ways to reduce the amount of borrowing in the fiscal year 2011 budget. County staff proposed borrowing $13.5 million for capital projects in fiscal year 2011, up from about $12 million in this fiscal year's budget, Murray said.

The commissioners directed county budget staff to identify possible cuts in capital improvement projects that could be made to keep borrowing at a $12 million level and agreed to consider those potential cuts at next week's meeting.

The commissioners will accept comments on the proposed fiscal year 2011 budget at a public hearing, tentatively scheduled for May 4, before voting on the budget.

Fiscal year 2011 begins July 1.

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