Nonprofits worry over budget crisis

Groups fear fallout from Annapolis fiscal woes

March 14, 2010|By Nicole Fuller | nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

As the public discussion plays out over Annapolis' budget woes, including a record deficit that has forced layoffs of city employees, some aldermen have expressed concerns over how the city's network of nonprofits will fare with less funding.

Mayor Josh Cohen, in his proposed budget last week, cut funding to nonprofits by half over the previous year, setting aside $205,000 for grants to nonprofit groups.

"It's no doubt that it will be a hardship for some nonprofits," Cohen said during his budget address.

Former Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer eliminated all grant funding for nonprofits from the budget for fiscal year 2010, but the city council restored funding to about $410,000.

Cohen spokesman Phillip McGowan said the mayor will seek to consult with the city council and the city's nonprofits on how best to use the city's resources.

"He's going to want guidance from the budget on a variety of proposals," said McGowan. "He will be seeking [the council's] guidance in determining the criteria, and what nonprofits are most deserving. To be clear, the lack of funding is going to be a hardship for many nonprofits, but these are difficult times for everyone, and we're trying to balance the interests of many different organizations."

The funding has not been designated to any of the organizations. The groups typically submit requests for funding annually.

Alderwoman Classie G. Hoyle, chairwoman of the finance committee, said she has received some panicked calls from heads of nonprofits worried about how they would carry on without city funding. Many of the programs are run from the city's churches, which are already on lean budgets, Hoyle said.

"We will go through those proposals," Hoyle said. "There are services that we get from our nonprofits that the city can't afford. Whether we will increase what's available, we don't know. We'll do the best we can."

Traditionally, nonprofits suffer during economic downturns. The organizations usually see a drop in revenue because of decreases in government spending and less giving from the public.

Alderman Kenny Kirby said many of the groups serve important functions for city residents. He pointed to one group, We Care and Friends, which provides food and other services, as an example of "tremendous public service."

Besides providing food, Kirby said, many of the groups provide support that helps deter and decrease crime. In recent years, Annapolis has had a substantial decrease in crime. Serious crime in Annapolis dropped last year to the lowest levels in 35 years. In 2009, homicides in Annapolis were down 50 percent, robbery 37 percent and aggravated assault 15 percent from the previous year's statistics.

Kirby said cutting funding to nonprofits could leave Annapolis a more dangerous place.

"We can ill afford to let those types of groups leave," said Kirby. "We're going to go through the budget with a fine-tooth comb. We're just going to have to do some things to make some money. We really don't need to lose any more city services, especially in that social sphere."

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