EDITORIAL: Nonprofits can draw funding from larger pool

Jun. 05, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

We're not envious of the decisions that the Lee County Board of Commissioners face when dealing with budget issues. After all, there's only so much of the taxpayers' money to go around — and the commissioners have the responsibility of making sure that the available monies are spent in the most judicious manner.

One of the issues drawing the most heat relates to the commissioners' funding for various nonprofit agencies and organizations. Among those requesting appropriations from the county are Boys & Girls Club of Sanford-Lee County, Lee County Industries, Temple Theatre, Johnston-Lee Community Action, HAVEN, Communities In Schools, Get Smart, Family Promise of Lee County, Christians United Outreach Center, Lee County Arts Council and Deep River Park. Previous commission boards have also struggled with these decisions, as have members of the Sanford City Council.

At a recent budget workshop, commissioners Jim Womack and Kirk Smith discussed the need to scale back even further when it comes to most nonprofits. On Monday night, more than a dozen people spoke in favor of nonprofits during the commissioners' regular meeting.

Among those to speak was Siler City resident Cathy Guthrie, who says her daughter participates in several Temple Theatre shows and programs. She noted that she spends time during rehearsals visiting and shopping at Sanford businesses.

"To say that Temple Theatre does not provide value is simply not true," she said. "It fuels money into the economy — into a downtown that needs the money, needs the revitalization. Without Temple, I would not have a reason to be in Sanford."

Good point.

Commissioner Womack countered by saying that every commissioner believes that community nonprofits have value, but the difference in opinion concerns how they should be funded. Womack said commissioners "are the stewards of the taxpayers' money," adding, "It is inappropriate for us to be dispensing money and redirecting funds from fixed-income seniors in this county to pay for the entertainment of other people. It's just inappropriate. That is not to say we don't find value in the nonprofits."

Good point as well.

One of the factors that stings is that these agencies have received county funding in the past — and to cut or do away with county funding for those agencies is likely to cause much consternation, particularly because most nonprofits' funding has dropped during the recession and weak economy the last few years.

Is there any compromise? Likely not. That's a concept that various levels of government have shied away in recent times.

It's a difficult issue. There is no doubt that nonprofits serve a great purpose within our community, but there's also no doubt taxpayers are stretched to the limit.

There are no easy answers, but Womack's point about stewardship is right on the money. The commissioners are the stewards of the county's resources, which come from taxpayers. Those resources are finite. The potential resources from which the nonprofits can draw is a much, much larger pool.

Perhaps it's time they become more dependent on those.