County commissioners Chairman Fred Foster wants the city’s advice on nonprofit funding, but his fellow Commissioner Michael Page wants the city to rethink its policies.
Grants to nonprofit agencies came up during a meeting of commissioners and City Council members last week, when Foster asked Mayor Bill Bell how the city ended its “non-city agencies” grant program
“We put a plan in place over a four-year period, told those in the queue we would be ending funding after a certain time and no new applications would be taken,” Mayor Bill Bell said.
The city program ended after the 2011-12 fiscal year. Durham County still makes cash grants to various organizations that apply for its Nonprofit Agency Funding Program. For the current fiscal year, the county gave out $794,849 to 41 agencies.
“It can be a burden without a benefit,” said Councilman Eugene Brown. The grants constituted about .25 percent of the city budget, but took as much council time in budget meetings as the Police Department, he said, and some organizations were doing no fund-raising on their own.
“I agree with you,” Page said, but then said, “I really do hope at some point you rethink this process.
“There are some nonprofits that are really providing services … that work very hard to serve citizens, particularly citizens no one else serves,” Page said.
Durham does give money to some “very targeted nonprofit initiatives,” particularly in low-income housing, City Manager Tom Bonfield said. Some city departments have partner arrangements that support nonprofits through departmental budgets or by in-kind donations.
“We realize we have limited resources,” said Bell. “There are instances where we’ve had people come in who had no experience working with the city … and ask for city money.”
Page said the county got “an enormous number of applications” for arts and recreation programs, areas the city formerly funded as non-city agencies.
“You were carrying some of this weight,” he said.
“People can always ask,” said Bell.