Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In county budget, funding for some nonprofits, not all

Fly Sun Valley request set to go unfulfilled


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer


Some nonprofit organizations—including the Blaine County Housing Authority, Mountain Rides and the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley—will receive more money from Blaine County next year if tentative levels of funding set Monday are approved later this summer.

However, while discussing preliminary budget numbers for funding outside organizations, the county commissioners rejected a $20,000 request from Fly Sun Valley Alliance, which works to support air service to the Wood River Valley.

Idaho law does not give counties the authority to levy local-option taxes on tourist-focused items such as rental cars, liquor by the drink and hotel rooms—and Commissioner Tom Bowman said cities generally use that revenue to fund their support of Fly Sun Valley Alliance. He said that without that revenue he could not support the request.

Commissioner Larry Schoen said he could not support the request either, but added that efforts of municipalities to potentially levy an additional local-option tax to fund the minimum revenue guarantees are underway.

A $2,000 request from Girls on the Run, a youth athletic organization, was also not funded. The Blaine County Drug Coalition, the Crisis Hotline, Mountain Rides and the Wood River Wolf Project all received slight increases—though not as much as they had requested.

Bowman said he supported Mountain Rides, the Blaine County Housing Authority and the animal shelter because those agencies either help the county meet its statutory requirements—such as taking responsibility for impounded dogs, for example—or the county was part of the formation of the organization, as in the case of Mountain Rides.

He also said he could support Region IV Development and South Central Community Action, as these agencies bring money into the community at large.

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"Many of the others are very valuable services," he said, "but it's harder to connect the dots. We assume that by funding these that it will impact our budget to the better, but there are no metrics we can use to prove it."

The commissioners also hesitated to give funding increases to organizations that are typically well-funded by other philanthropy. Bowman said the Blaine County Community Drug Coalition has been very successful with fundraising, and he was hesitant to give them a $10,000 funding increase as requested.

"What I know anecdotally is that they are pretty flush," he said. "They have been very successful with their fundraising."

The organization will receive $5,000 from the county for fiscal 2013, equal to the same amount budgeted for 2012. The Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault are set to receive a $1,000 increase, the Crisis Hotline will receive a $1,500 increase and St. Luke's Center for Community Health will receive $10,000 for mental health counseling.

Schoen said he supported these mainly because they provide essential services, the need for which is only growing. For example, last year Blaine County spent $179,000 on psychiatric holds, an amount that Schoen said could be reduced by funding more counseling and focusing on other crisis-oriented organizations.

"I was an advocate for eliminating these in the face of very serious budget challenges," Schoen said, referring to last year's possibility that all funding to outside agencies would be cut. "But I have always felt that they do very serious work that saves the county money in the long run."

These numbers will be included in the county's tentative budget for review on July 24.

Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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