The Marshall County Fiscal Court on Monday approved a budget for the next fiscal year that restores some grant funding for nonprofits, but still has a significant reduction from years previous.
Commissioner Kevin Spraggs proposed amending the budget to increase the nonprofit grant pool to $125,000 from the previously proposed $50,000. This is still lower than the $220,000 in last year’s budget. Spraggs and Commissioner Monti Collins in a meeting last week attempted unsuccessfully to increase restore more funding. The additional amount proposed Monday, the $75,000 on top of the budgeted $50,000, comes from the $107,834 in general reserves.
The measure passed with Spraggs, Neal and Commissioner Justin Lamb voting ‘yes’ and Judge-Executive Kevin Neal voting ‘no’.
Following the amendment, county leaders approved next year’s budget.
Marshall County Needline
In a lengthy discussion prior to the vote that included members of the audience and representatives of Marshall County Needline, Neal argued that nonprofits need to “step up” and not rely on the government for funding. Neal said he believes the county and region are generous and if the nonprofits try harder to get their message out there, then people will give to their cause. Neal has pointed to increasing infrastructure needs and rising pension costs as areas the fiscal court must prioritize.
Neal said he feels elected officials should help the local nonprofits and he sees that help in the form of encouraging them to get out of the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality, which he said amounts to complacency. He pointed to past efforts organizing workshops for nonprofits that involved the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative and other means for preparing the groups to sustain themselves without government funds. Neal expressed a frustration over a seeming lack of desire on the part of some nonprofits to engage in the effort. Neal has discussed the philanthropy and ‘transfer of wealth’ concept in an interview with WKMS News.
Marshall County Needline Board Chair Doug Moore did not disagree with Neal in that nonprofits could do more to support themselves. He acknowledged that complacency can be slow to replace. He asked the court to give Needline time to adapt and to raise extra funds needed in the wake of declining county grants as well as a recent change to the Christmas light show in the park, which Needline had, until a few weeks ago, been the sole nonprofit involved and relied heavily on that revenue. WKMS News spoke with Needline about the light show last week.
Brittany Heath of the Parks Department explained in the Monday meeting that she felt the parks should help as many nonprofits as possible. In addition to opening up the Christmas show to other nonprofits, her department also plans to assist with marketing efforts. The county spends about $10,000 a year to put on the show.
Neal suggested that he did not think the county would let Needline fail. “Obviously the message is out that Needline needs support,” he said. “Take this opportunity to see if people in this community will actually donate to your organization, but you have to line-out what your needs are.” Needline representatives estimated they have enough to make it to the end of the calendar year. They described generating revenue from fundraising and sales, but expressed a need and desire to boost efforts. They said their total budget is around $150,000 a year. The county previously awarded them $35,000 a year and revenue from the Christmas light show had been around $55,000.
Some community members holding signs in support of nonprofits (but not representing nonprofits) criticized Neal for “painting a grand opportunity” for nonprofits while cutting their funding, arguing that he was “putting these people down after they give every day.” Neal responded, saying nonprofits have employees to bring in money for their organizations and the fiscal court does not manage what they do, nor has any responsibility. Neal added that he respected Needline’s board chair for meeting with him.
Purchase Area Development District And Seniors
The Marshall County Senior Citizens Center board voted earlier this month to close their doors at the end of this month, following the then-proposed cutbacks to nonprofit grants. The move put into question future services for local seniors. In addition to county funding, the Benton center is contracted with the Purchase Area Development District.
PADD Executive Director Jennifer Beck Walker said her office is required to provide senior services in the region, including Marshall County. She said PADD is in the second year of a three year contract with the Marshall County Senior Citizens Center to provide federal and state funds for meals and social services.
“It’s our job as the area development district to make sure that services still continue on Monday, July 1,” Walker said. She explained that “Plan A” is to continue with the current provider. Since that’s not an option in this case, she said the go to “Plan B.” This plan involves partnering with the local community kitchen Marcella’s Kitchen. Walker said Marcella’s has agreed to provide meals free of charge. “We have submitted to the state, last Friday we sent to them, a request for a waiver to have what we’ve called a ‘virtual senior center.’”
This virtual center, Walker explained, would involve hiring a part-time staff person who would work 20 hours a week in the county, primarily at Marcella’s Kitchen and also at the courthouse. Marcella’s would serve as the designated ‘senior services focal point.’ The staff person would be involved in providing supportive services and Marcella’s Kitchen would provide the meals. She said a meeting with the state is scheduled for Wednesday.
‘Plan C,’ involves seeing whether providers in surrounding counties can provide home delivered meals in Marshall County.
“It is our responsibility at the Area Development District to make sure services continue to seniors and we’re going to do that. I’m not sure how far down the alphabet we’ll get, but that is our focus this week,” Walker said.
Walker said Marcella’s has agreed to provide and deliver free meals to seniors at no cost. Since the community kitchen would not be using state and federal funds, that money could be used to feed seniors currently on waiting lists in other area counties. The government has strict meal requirements and Marcella Perkins has said she doesn't want to be limited in what she can cook.
The fiscal court also approved a 1.25% COLA for most county workers. The money to pay for this would come out of occupational tax receipts. Attempts to pass a higher COLA of 1.75% put forth by Spraggs failed on a one to three vote. In this proposal, the funds would have come from general reserves. Neal, in dissenting, expressed a need to plan for infrastructure improvements and to have enough money to handle potential catastrophic situations. Neal did, however, open the meeting with a proposal for a 1% COLA from general fund reserves.