UPDATED: At a June 11 Warrenton Town Council meeting where the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget was approved, members also voted through a motion to cut contributions to all nonprofit organizations by 10 percent. The motion was suggested by Councilman Kevin Carter (Ward 5) just before the council was set to vote on the proposed budget.
The Warrenton-based Gloria Faye Dingus Music Alliance applied for a $10,000 town donation for the first time for FY2020. It was slated to receive the funds, but at the meeting, town council members reduced that amount to $2,500. The group provides musical instruments and music instruction to children in need; it also operates Gloria’s in Old Town Warrenton as an entertainment venue.
Town Manager Brandie Schaefer explained, “Council cited that they (the music alliance) received another small business economic development grant from the town in the amount of $7,500, so rather than give $10,000 as requested, this year they would give $2,500.”
Councilman Jerry Wood (Ward 1) and Councilman Renard Carlos (at large) spoke against the motion to reduce outside groups’ funding by ten percent, objecting to the last-minute nature of the proposal.
Wood argued that it was bad policy to suggest the reduction at the 11th hour. “I had no idea you were going to do this tonight... I plead with you not to cut these people’s budgets. Let’s don’t decide this at the last minute. Don’t throw this wrench into their budgets now.”
At a June 6 council work session, Wood spoke about the services that nonprofits provide: “These are very, very important projects. We have to remember that government could never do it for this price.”
At the Tuesday meeting, Carlos added his voice to Woods’ and suggested that the best policies are worked out in committees, where members have time to consider the long-term consequences before making decisions.
Councilman Sean Polster (at large) said that he would have liked to see the contributions cut by 25 percent, “but this is a good step.” At the June 6 work session Polster stated that he is not in favor of using town money to contribute to any outside agencies. “It’s like taking taxpayer money and telling people which charities to donate to.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Carter Nevill pointed out that town government departments had been asked to tighten their belts this budget season and it was only fair to ask the same of community groups. “We need to apply the same level of financial scrutiny to this group.”
He added, that the groups applying for funds “do great work. No one is questioning that. But we have an obligation to say ‘no’ at some point.”
Vice Mayor Robert Kravetz (Ward 4) said, “We have operated under the mindset that ‘You ask for it, you get it.”
Councilman Alex Burnett (Ward 2) was also in favor of the cutback. He said, “It is not our responsibility to augment” the budgets of these organizations.
When it came time to vote for the proposed budget, including the motion to cut back on contributions to nonprofit organizations, Wood asked for a voice vote. Despite his impassioned pleas for leaving the contributions in place, he ended up voting “yes” for the budget with the cuts in place. Carlos was the lone dissenting vote.
Council members have been hammering out the fiscal year 2020 budget since early April. They debated details on health insurance, one-time expenses through capital improvement projects (including an urgent – and unexpected -- technology need) and considered personnel changes.
The money that had been proposed for nonprofits represents about 1 percent of the total general fund.
Nonprofit groups affected
In this year’s proposed budget – before the June 11 meeting -- it was recommended that the town contribute to 15 local nonprofits: Allegro Community School of the Arts ($5,000), Boys and Girls Club of Fauquier ($10,000), Fauquier Cadre ($2,000), Fauquier Community Action Committee/Head Start/Bright Stars ($10,000), Fauquier Community Child Care ($4,500), Fauquier Community Food Bank ($3,750), Fauquier Family Shelter ($6,700), Fauquier Free Clinic ($10,000), Fauquier Historical Society ($10,000), Gloria Faye Dingus Music Alliance ($10,000), Leadership Fauquier ($3,000), Literacy Volunteers of Fauquier County ($2,500), Lord Fairfax Community College ($7,500), Piedmont Dispute Resolution Center ($1,000) and Winter Celebration of the Arts ($5,000).
All the groups submitted written requests for the funding and some representatives attended a public hearing on the budget May 14, to make a personal appeal. Funds to nonprofits are disbursed quarterly.
The final proposed budget was for $25.98 million, and includes $17.6 million for the general fund, $8.2 million in the utility fund and $3.93 million for general fund capital improvement projects. The budget was based on maintaining the current real estate property tax rate of .05¢ per $100 of assessed value.
Full details on the FY2020 budget can be found at: http://www.warrentonva.gov/government/budget.php.
Robin Earl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org