Grants to aid groups shrink

County's new budget sharply cuts funds for nonprofits

May 30, 2007|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN REPORTER

With passage expected tomorrow of a $1.44 billion Anne Arundel County budget that cuts grant funding to nonprofits in half, some agencies are rethinking how they can operate without relying on county money.

Several of the 49 nonprofits that will see less funding in the coming fiscal year say they might drastically reduce services or be forced to close their doors. Others are shifting their focus to pursuing private funding to maintain their current level of aid.

One example of this self-sufficiency is Severna Park-based Partners in Care, which helps older people remain independent in their homes through a service exchange of rides to doctor's offices and grocery stores and handyman repairs, saw its $45,000 grant cut to $5,000, then restored last week.

It actively seeks out private grant money -- netting $10,000 and $25,000 awards this spring. It also holds fundraisers, runs a consignment shop and sells buttons that people can wear to summon help in an emergency.

"We're very entrepreneurial, and I think a lot of other nonprofits are going to have to think that way," said Anne Myers, development director. "We can't count on the county."

County Executive John R. Leopold warned yesterday that nonprofit organizations must become more self-sufficient and said his administration must institute a "more objective decision-making process" in doling out county grants.

"I am pleased with the budget in its entirety in meeting the obligations to provide assistance to all income levels," Leopold said.

While acknowledging that $2.5 million in cuts to county grant funding might be difficult, he said a looming state structural deficit as high as $1.8 billion could lead to a significant reduction in state aid to the counties -- and force local jurisdictions to further cut their grant funding.

Joseph P. Gill, president of the board of the directors for Annapolis Area Ministries, said that the public sector can't afford to further limit its funding to nonprofits that house and rehabilitate the homeless and provide aid for low-income and other disadvantaged residents.

"It make absolutely no sense that the hardship of a dwindling budget be placed on the people who can afford it the least," he said, "There is nowhere else for these people to go."

Annapolis Area Ministries will receive $210,000 -- all for the building of a $6.5 million homeless shelter in Parole -- instead of the $10,000 that Leopold initially allocated.

County Councilman Joshua J. Cohen, an Annapolis Democrat, said he learned this week that the Opportunity Industrialization Center, which provides basic education and job training to low-income county residents, might be forced to close. OIC did not receive county funding for the fiscal 2008 budget after receiving $33,300 for the current fiscal year.

Funding for the Legal Aid Bureau of Anne Arundel County dropped from $75,000 to $35,000. Leopold wanted to reduce the grant money, which supports a contested custody program, to $10,000, but the council restored $25,000. The reduction won't mean layoffs, said spokesman Joe Surkiewicz, though the organization will have to boost fundraising, particularly from private attorneys, and "just scramble and continue to do the projects."

Sun reporter Nia-Malika Henderson contributed to this article.

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