Calling it an investment in our community, Commissioner Charles Rousseau asked to reconsider the county’s support of non-profits during the yearly budget, but his pleas were denied.
“I view this as an investment in our community and our people, not as simply money,” he said.
During budget discussions at last week’s County Board of Commissioners meeting, Rousseau proposed approving $75,000 in non-profit funding for one year, along with establishing a committee to assist in evaluating applying non-profits and their benefit to the county.
A focus could be on groups on the preventative side, he said, helping solve problems before they explode. The county’s DUI Court and Drug Court receive taxpayer money in the form of federal grants, but they deal with problems on the back end. Support could be given to groups helping to fight the rising tide of drug and opioid abuse, for instance.
“The crux of the matter becomes do we invest in something that benefits this community, where non-profits sometimes will catch those community or family ills,” he said. “We’re going to be discussing this soon. We’re discussing it on the surface because it hasn’t hit home yet, but it’s next door in Coweta. Just look at the reports from the Department of Health. Some of these non-profits do the intervention that we don’t have an agency to do.”
Rousseau also noted that both Fayetteville and Peachtree City support various non-profit groups.
His motion would be rejected 1-3.
Commissioner Steve Brown expressed a willingness to consider supporting non-profits on a more case-by-case basis when that group fills in the gaps the government can’t cover.
“I think if there’s a non profit organization that fulfills a government-mandated task, i.e. they’re taking the job that we would normally have to fund through taxpayer dollars anyway, and perhaps they can do it more efficiently using volunteers,” he said. “If they can do it better than we can and it’s mandated that we provide that service, that would be my exception.”
Commissioner Charles Oddo didn’t want to tell people how their money would be spent.
“The issue I have is with the government collecting funds by force from the citizens and then distributing the funds. The question is not whether or not these [non-profits] are worthy,” he said. “A lot of residents have a difficult enough time as it is paying the property taxes that we ask of them.
“I have a difficult time being the government requiring the payment and then deciding how it’s going to be distributed. I’d rather the private sector handle it.”
Commissioner Randy Ognio thought it would create problems for the county deciding who to support.
“The reason that it’s being killed is you can’t pick and choose who you give it to. There comes a point where you can either have it or not have it because if you give it to one, then this other group’s going to come ask for some,” he said. “It’s hard to evaluate what you give to.”
The issue reared its head in back August 2017 when two local non-profits requested help from the county. Fayette FACTOR, a collaborative of local businesses, civic leaders, law enforcement, lawyers and judges, faith-based and school-based organizations, families, child advocates, and public and private human services providers, saw their request for $7,000 approved, while Fayette Care Clinic, a non-profit that assists Fayette County’s uninsured and working poor by providing medical, dental, vision, dermatology, cardiology, physical therapy, gynecology, and chiropractic care, had their request for $14,000 rejected.
Complicating the matter is that the Board of Commissioners, included all current members, approved the budget for many years including funds for Bloom Our Youth, a local non-profit foster care organization, of which County Attorney Dennis Davenport’s wife Becky serves as Executive Director.
At that August 2017 meeting, Rousseau said of Bloom, “This organization that we’ve been giving almost $20,000 to for 10 years needs to be reevaluated as well.” Bloom is not part of the newly-approved 2019 budget.
Rousseau questioned the wisdom of withdrawing all support of non-profits since the inconsistency in funding was presented.
“It’s really interesting that this body didn’t know that those dollars were going to someone else for X amount of years. That’s troubling,” he said. “Then all of a sudden, when we raise it and it expands to reach more [non-profit groups], now we want to kill it altogether. It’s just real interesting, and so that leaves me with somewhat of a perplexed position when we discover something and answer is just kill it all.”