Marshall Fiscal Court Split On Nonprofit Funding. Needline, Seniors Voice Concern

Jun 20, 2019

Credit Matt Markgraf / WKMS

The Marshall County Fiscal Court is divided over a funding cut for nonprofits in the next budget. Attempts to raise the cap were unsuccessful in a meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The court met in a special called meeting to discuss the proposed budget, which did not get a second reading as planned because the county is still waiting on state approval. The budget reduces county grant funding to nonprofits from $200,000 to $50,000.

Commissioner Monti Collins proposed restoring the $200,000 for the purpose of discussion but ended up voting ‘no’ along with Commissioner Justin Lamb and Judge-Executive Kevin Neal. Commissioner Kevin Spraggs voted ‘yes.’ Collins then proposed $150,000, which he voted in favor of with Spraggs. Lamb and Neal both voted against that amendment and the motion died in the tie.

Spraggs said he felt the $50,000 as proposed would be “devastating” to local nonprofits.

Neal said he expects to call a special meeting to pass the budget in the near future. The next fiscal year begins July 1.

Senior Citizens Center

The proposed reduction prompted a local senior citizen’s board to vote this week to close their center. "I'm very disappointed," said Ken Lewis, Chairman of the Senior Citizens Center Board, following the meeting. "But we'll just have to deal with what we get. That's the hand we've been dealt."

Lewis said, "The people that we've been serving are people that have lived here all their life - paid taxes all their life. Now they need some help. And it's been cut off. That's where - that's where we hurt."

Credit Matt Markgraf / WKMS

Neal pointed to rising pension costs and other budgetary needs as a reason for the cuts. He said he’s been trying to work with nonprofits for years in developing plans to raise funds from the community rather than rely on government dollars. He praised the local community kitchen Marcella’s Kitchen for taking that charge as well as for offering to help seniors should the center close.

WKMS News recently spoke with Neal and Marcella Perkins about this topic.

Neal noted that the senior citizen’s center is contracted with the Purchase Area Development District for federal and state funds that go toward meals both in the center and to those who are homebound (as well as other services). Neal said PADD is required to provide those services whether or not the center stays open. PADD has said they would try to find another provider. Neal said this would come in the form of a “pilot program” unique to Marshall County. “The services will continue,” he said.

WKMS News recently spoke with PADD Executive Director Jennifer Beck Walker about their obligations.

Needline

Marshall County Needline is voicing concern about how they’ll continue to operate in the wake of this and another recent cut from the county. Board Chair Doug Moore said Needline has been in business for 32 years and helped more than 6,000 families last year alone. The fiscal court money, he said, has helped with building maintenance.

Needline Chair Doug Moore
Credit Matt Markgraf / WKMS

Moore said he’s concerned the organization won’t be able to shore up the revenue quick enough to make up for the recent losses. He said the county previously awarded Needline $35,000 as well as another $55,000 from the Christmas light show in the park. He says both are now gone, amounting to a $90,000 loss.

He explained after the meeting that a few weeks ago, he received a memo from the Judge-Executive’s office notifying Needline that they would no longer have exclusive access to the Christmas show. Rather, revenue from the five-week show would be split between five nonprofits and Needline isn’t guaranteed to be one of them. Also, he said, that money would divvied up after the show’s end.

"Several years: we're broke in November,” Moore said. “And the only thing that saves us is: the light show starts. And if we take in $500 dollars one night we go straight to the bank with it. So that's $500 dollars I can spend tomorrow. But I can't do that now. I've got to wait five weeks to get my ‘fifth’ - if I'm indeed picked as one of the five, which I may not be."

Neal suggested Needline do more to get their message out and to explain their needs to the community. When asked if he thought Needline could do a better job of getting their message out, Neal said, “I think you can get to more people to get your message out. Yes.”

Needline director Becky Cornwell (in blue)
Credit Matt Markgraf / WKMS

Director Becky Cornwell disputed the suggestion her organization isn’t doing enough, saying she’s mailed letters, communicates often with local news outlets, is active on social media and has been before the fiscal court. “How else am I to get it out there? I don’t think you understand. I invited you - I went to your office with an appointment when you first took office. I sat down and I explained to you what Needline did for the community, what it meant to our folks in the community and who we served, how often we serve and what we did for these folks. I asked you to come to my office and tour my facility. You have yet to darken my door! And you’re telling me I’m not getting my word out? But yet you’re cutting me below the knees - and I say me because I do take it personally - because these folks are in dire straits.”

Neal said he’s not telling them they’re not getting their word out. He said if she’s doing the things she’s mentioned then that’s an organizational decision. “If it’s not working then that’s something you have to discuss at your board,” he said, adding the decision to open up the Christmas show is an opportunity to give other organizations a chance to get their word out. He suggested Needline shouldn’t count so much on one time a year to get their word out.

Moore said, "It's not as easy as he says it's going to be to go out and for me to replace $90,000 dollars. It's not. And when we run out of money we lock the doors.” He said he’s been trying to secure interns from Murray State who can help boosting fundraising efforts in Marshall County. He also plans to contact the Needline in Murray for help.