Arundel council members make pitch for additional nonprofit funding

June 03, 2014|By Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun

Members of the Anne Arundel County Council are calling on County Executive Laura Neuman to fund $250,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations that weren't included in the executive's initial budget proposal..

Three councilmen lined up representatives of a cancer support center, a job readiness organization and a mental health treatment organization to plead their case in a press conference in Annapolis on Tuesday.

"They represent the very people that government should help and try to assist," said Councilman Daryl Jones, a Democrat from Severn. Jones was joined in his request by Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Crownsville Democrat, and Councilman Derek Fink, a Pasadena Republican.

Jones and Benoit are from the opposite political party as Neuman, and Fink supports Neuman's GOP primary opponent, state Del. Steve Schuh. Still, the three said they were not trying to make a political point with the plea for funding.

Council members say there is enough money to fund all of the nonprofit groups that asked for grants; the council's auditor has recommended more than $4 million in cuts to the $1.3 billion proposed budget, and the county budget office has offered no opposition to $3 million of those cuts.

Council members can make budget cuts, but they legally can only add funding to the school system allocation. Additional funding for any other area of county government – including nonprofit grants – must be proposed by the county executive in the form of a supplemental budget. The three are asking Neuman to propose that change.

The councilmen are also seeking documentation to explain why some groups that requested grants were funded and others were not.

Neuman defended the grants process in a statement issued Tuesday night. Neuman said even though she has the right to invoke executive privilege to not release the evaluation paperwork, she is providing it to the council's auditor with some information redacted.

"My administration is committed to transparency, and we have been open to working with the County Council in providing additional information," Neuman said in her statement, adding that selecting grant recipients is "a discretionary process."

Fifty-three nonprofits applied for a total of $2.35 million worth of grants. The county executive issued grants to 39 organizations totaling $996,700, about the same amount as the past few years. Neuman did not say if she would propose an increase to the grants.

Representatives from three groups that weren't funded attended Tuesday's event: the Annapolis Wellness House, which said it planned to expand its counseling and programs for kids with cancer; the Opportunities Industrialization Center, which is seeking to pay for more GED tests; and the Arundel Lodge, which wants to add a new entrance and play therapy rooms for clients seeking mental health treatment.

The council will consider amendments to the proposed budget Wednesday and is scheduled to take a final budget vote Friday.

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