As it does every year during budget deliberations, the Smithfield Town Council heard recently from nonprofits and other groups seeking taxpayer dollars.
The council listened to but made no decisions on requests from the following: the robotics team at Smithfield-Selma High School; the Hawk Youth Leadership Council; Helping Hands and Healing Hearts; the Interfaith Food Shuttle; Harbor Inc.; Community & Senior Services of Johnston County; the Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce; the Ava Gardner Museum; the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp.; and the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield.
The library, which gets funding from the town and county, is seeking the most money – $315,000, an increase of $63,000 over the current year. Smithfield’s new town manager, Michael Scott, is recommending $250,000 for the library, a decrease of $2,800.
In its request, the library noted that it did not get an increase from the town last year, and this year, it wants to give its employees 2-percent raises, which is what Scott is proposing for Smithfield workers.
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Library director Margaret Marshall said the library serves about 11,000 patrons every month and that its roof leaks. “We could open our own pool,” she told the council.
The Downtown Smithfield Development Corp., which promotes downtown through events like the Ham & Yam Festival, wants the next highest dollar amount – $55,000, the same it received this fiscal year. Scott recommends giving the group what it wants.
Next up is the Ava Gardner Museum, which wants $42,000, which would be a $23,000 increase over what it received this year. Among other things, the museum is raising money for a fire-suppression system and other building updates needed to protect the collection, which the town owns. Scott is recommending a $3,000 increase, to $22,000.
Museum director Deanna Brandenberger said the town used to fund the director’s salary and benefits. But “in recent years, the stipend has been significantly decreased, which has been a hardship” on the nonprofit museum, she said.
The Chamber of Commerce requested $4,000, the same amount it received last year, and that’s what Scott is recommending. The chamber is in the middle of campaign in support of a CSX railroad hub locating in Johnston County. The chamber said it uses tax dollars from the town specifically for economic development and marketing on behalf of Smithfield.
Community & Senior Services of Johnston County is seeking $3,500, a $1,100 increase from the current year. Scott supports that request. The center provides for services for seniors, including home-delivered meals, transportation and housing.
The Hawk Youth Leadership Council, which requested $1,500, helps young people with academics, resumes and leadership training.
Helping and Healing Hearts, which is seeking $4,000, provides food and clothing to the needy.
The Interfaith Food Shuttle requested $2,000. The group helps feed the needy in seven counties, including Johnston.
None of the three received funding from the town last year, but Scott recommends granting their requests.
Harbor Inc. requested $2,500, a $100 increase from the current year. Harbor provides aid, including shelter, to victims of rape and domestic violence.
The SSS robotics team came before the council seeking a donation, but no specific amount, to help next year’s team with travel and other expenses. The team also has appealed to the Selma Town Council and local civic groups.
Some of the groups also receive funding from the county and some other towns including Benson, Four Oaks, Kenly, Princeton and Selma.
Smithfield has until July 1 to adopt a 2016-17 budget.
Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett