Smithfield Herald

July 7, 2014

Johnston County will research whether to fund non-profits

Should Johnston County tax dollars fund non-profits? The general consensus: no, but it depends on the non-profit.

Should Johnston County tax dollars fund nonprofits?

Generally speaking, no, County Commissioners say, while conceding that the answer to the question might depend on the nonprofit.

Ultimately, as part of a budget meeting last week, commissioners agreed to research whether to give to nonprofits and, if so, which ones.

Originally, the budget commissioners approved last week ended county funding for the Johnston County Arts Council and Harbor Inc., which provides aid, including shelter, to victims of rape and domestic violence. But after appeals from both nonprofits, commissioners gave $1,500 to the Arts Council and $20,000 to Harbor.

Commissioner Allen Mims noted that commissioners agreed several years ago to beging weaning nonprofits from county funding. Last week, he asked why Johnston taxpayers were still giving money to nonprofits.

“Now we’re changing the rule or bending the rule, and it goes to a fairness issue,” Mims said. “If we’re going to give to some of these, why didn’t we open up and tell the others to come on?”

Mims said he’s fearful 10 to 20 nonprofits will come to commissioners next year asking for money. “I just have problems that we picked and chose two of them just because they were the ones that persisted,” he said.

Commissioner Ted Godwin said he understood where Mims was coming from. He has talked to voters who said they don’t want their tax dollars going to nonprofits that relatively few Johnstonians use.

But Godwin said Harbor offers services the county would likely have to provide if Harbor didn’t exist. “I think it’s prudent to spend dollars now to save dollars down the road, significant dollars, because of what they do, the type of work it does,” he said.

Godwin said he is fine with cutting out all nonprofits but Harbor. “It becomes our responsibility on a bigger tab if they weren’t there,” he said.

Commissioners’ Chairman Jeff Carver agreed that the county should continue aiding Harbor. “ If $20,000 gets us to the place where we don’t have to create a department, then that’s what I want to do,” he said.

Carver recalled why commissioners agreed in the first place to stop funding nonprofits: People would ask for money to fund their own jobs in their nonprofits. Commissioners didn’t want to pay people to create jobs for themselves, he said.

Carver also noted that commissioners give money to Community & Senior Services and similar nonprofits, which are important safety nets.

The commissioners agreed to name a committee to look at nonprofit funding.

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