Ocean City Today

Nonprofit donations scrutinized by county

Most organizations set at last year’s totals, but others receive decreases
By Brian Gilliland | May 11, 2017

(May 12, 2017) One of the more contentious debates during the Worcester County Commissioners’ budget session on Tuesday was which nonprofit and cultural organizations to fund, and in what amount.

Commissioner President Jim Bunting made his intentions clear.

“I think we should reduce every nonprofit request by 10 percent,” he said. He also noted that Wicomico County offers no support to local nonprofits.

“Nonprofits are formed by people coming together to raise money,” Bunting said.

The process started with the requested budget, where all the organizations made their cases for new, stable or increased funding, and the county budget committee consisting of County Administrator Harold Higgins, Treasurer Phil Thompson, treasurer and Budget Manager Kathy Whited setting all the requests to last year’s level.

In total, the requests came to about $1.25 million, and were reduced by staff to about $861,000, before the officials started making changes.

No new requests from nonprofits were funded, including the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, Worcester County Humane Society, Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council, Lower Shore Land Trust and Town Cats.

Atlantic General Hospital requested $300,000, which was an increase of $225,000 over last year, to support construction of various facilities, including a full-service cancer care center.

Commissioner Bud Church requested returning $100,000 to the existing $75,000 pledge to support the $35 million capital campaign on the basis that if Economic Development Director Merry Mears, were to come in with a $35 million project, the county would support it.

On the condition the expense was not recurring, the measure passed over the objections of Commissioners Jim Bunting and Chip Bertino.

The Worcester County Humane Society provides a service in the north end of the county by dealing with stray or lost animals, and requested $20,000 in support this year. That request was zeroed out over the objections of Commissioners Joe Mitrecic and Bud Church.

“I agree they provide a service, I just don’t think we should pay for it,” Bertino said.

The Maryland Food Bank sought $10,000, but had their request trimmed back to just $1,500.

Mitrecic said the organization distributed 807,000 pounds of food last year, and while he didn’t think $10,000 was appropriate, he wanted more for the organization.

“We’re talking about people in our county living on scraps,” he said.

Commissioner Vice President Diana Purnell admitted the food bank fed a lot of people, but ultimately joined the majority in agreeing to send the organization $1,500 this year, with Mitrecic and Church against.

Though it took some doing to arrive at the proper figure, the commissioners slashed funding to the Salvation Army from $6,000 to $2,000 this year.

Only one new cultural organization, the Mar-Va Theater in Pocomoke City, received funding from the county. According to Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw, who represents Pocomoke on the board, the theater was forced to purchase new equipment, which was a significant financial setback.

“Prior to this they were doing well,” he said.

The conversation then moved to the Delmarva Discovery Center and its $40,500 request, which was reduced by 10 percent in keeping with President and CEO Stacey Weisner’s promise to the county made a few years ago.

Several of the commissioners, however, were reluctant to grant any funding.

Church said he had been saying each year was the last to fund the center longer than anyone on the current board, but the new otter exhibit and Weisner had really turned the center around.

Church also noted there are fewer private sources for funding in Pocomoke than there are in the north end of the county.

“I’m not sure I’d do it again next year, but the center deserves a continued chance,” Church said.

The measure passed with Bertino, Bunting and Commissioner Ted Elder against.

The county budget is not yet finalized, and could change ahead of its anticipated June 6 adoption.

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