October 13,  2011

County Council will reinstate
'worthy cause' grants giving

Members of County Council voted to resume making donations to nonprofit charitable organizations.

The grants program was ended two years ago as an economy measure in light of county government's fiscal problems. While those problems have not been remedied, some members argued at a finance committee meeting on Oct. 11 that it is incumbent upon Council to offer at least token assistance to organizations that also are struggling in the ailing state and national economies.

"It's not a huge sum of money [involved], but it will meet a real need in a timely fashion," Councilman John Cartier said.

 Jea Street, who  proposed reinstating the grants program, said doing so will give Council "the opportunity to make a difference with folks who do certain things."

The committee -- which, like all standing committees consists of the entire 13-member Council -- voted nine-to-one, with two members absent, to have its policy director, James Boyle,  prepare a specific proposal. It presumably will come before the committee for a final decision at its next meeting, on Oct. 25.

George Smiley, who cast the negative vote, did not object to the idea, but argued that, with economy measures, including 2% 'givebacks' by all county employees, still in force it is presently inappropriate. "When we have the money to pay them (employees) then we can give money elsewhere."

During discussion of Street's motion there emerged a consensus that Council would tap its $200,000 contingency fund to finance the grants. Boyle said nothing has been spent from the fund so far this fiscal year.

If half the contingency fund were transferred into a grants fund and divided evenly among members, each would have just shy of $7,700 to dispense.

The previous arrangement was for members to determine which organizations would receive grants and how large the individual grants would be. The finance committee had to formally approve the grants by a majority vote. As far as can be determined, however, no requested grant was ever denied.

Each Council member had $1,500 a year to spend. The  total available, including an allotment for Council as a whole, was $25,000.

Council members were not obliged to spend their entire grants allotment. Smiley, for one, returned unspent money to the county general fund when the former program was ended.

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Read previous Delaforum article: Council will do away with financial grants

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