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Public Notices

April 19, 2014

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How Local Agencies Will Cope With Cuts Due To County Vote

Originally published: 2013-09-07 01:12:04
Last modified: 2013-09-07 01:13:05
 


BY KRISTEN BUCKLES

STAFF WRITER

A number of local agencies and organizations say they will be relying on the generosity of the community to help them overcome a recent downturn in their revenues.

In late August, the Greene County Commission voted to not provide customary annual contributions to 13 service agencies and organizations because of anticipated county deficits for the 2013-2014 budget year.

As a result, these agencies, many of them non-profits, are now scrambling to review their annual budgets and search for cuts that won't affect their programming.

While the agencies offer differing services, the themes of their responses in interviews with The Greeneville Sun this week were often the same:

* disappointment or horror over the loss of the funds,

* concern over where to make the cuts,

* understanding that the county faced a difficult decision,

* and hope that the funding will be reinstated next year.

The following is the response given by each agency in telephone interviews as to what the impact will be from the county's cut.

FRONTIER HEALTH

The Nolachuckey-Holston Area Mental Health Center, at 401 Holston Drive, typically received nearly $23,000 from the county each year, in addition to any contract monies for services rendered to the county.

While those contract monies will remain ongoing, the annual contribution will not be given in 2013-2014.

"We had hoped to not be eliminated, but we do understand that they have to make difficult decisions," said Dr. Teresa Kidd, senior vice president of operations.

"Our plans are just to look for other ways to ensure that the cuts that we have gotten do not impact client services in Greene County."

ROBY FITZGERALD

Greeneville's Roby Fitzgerald Adult Center, at 203 N. College St., typically received an annual county contribution of about $19,600.

As a department of the Town of Greeneville, the center will remain open but will have to reassess its fees and services, according to Director Glenda Blazer.

"We are very disappointed that they decided not to fund us," she said. "The town is working on some different ways for us to come up with this funding loss."

However, those options are not yet ready for public presentation, she said.

BOYS & GIRLS CLUB

The Boys & Girls Club of Greeneville & Greene County, at 740 W. Church St., annually received $12,250.

"It's going to affect us in a big way," Director Scott Bullington said of the loss. "It can cause quite an effect on the budget.

"We'll have to look at the overall budget and what we offer to see where cuts can be made -- to see where we can best alleviate the loss of the monies."

Bullington noted that the cost for a child to attend the club is $5 for the after-school program and $100 for the summer program, a fee which provides breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack.

"I don't know of anybody else's program that can stack up to that for overall cost," he said.

He assured that these fees will not increase as a result of the cut.

"We're not going to turn our backs on the kids to charge them more to cover.

"We're hoping for new support from the community to help to continue to serve our children at a high level, that would keep us from having to make cuts in anything."

COMMUNITY MINISTRIES

The Greeneville-Greene County Community Ministries Food Bank typically receives $9,800 annually from the county.

The loss of these funds will result in a direct proportional loss in services, according to Director Carmen Ricker.

"There's that much less for Greene County people that need it," Ricker said.

The ministry provides such services as the food bank, and paying water and electric bills for individuals or families on an emergency basis.

SECOND HARVEST

Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee typically received $4,900 annually from the county.

Second Harvest used these funds to provide services in Greene County, as well as to help support other programs here, such as the Community Ministries Food Bank.

The loss of funds could result in decreased aid to those agencies, or cuts to the Second Harvest Mobile Food Pantry or Backpack for Kids program here, Executive Director Rhonda Chafin said.

"This [the cut] definitely will be difficult for this organization," Chafin said. "It's operational funding that we really depended on to operate programs in Greene County for the coming year.

"It's really going to put a hardship on this organization."

Chafin noted that those funds helped provide food for the mobile food pantry that serves the St. James and Camp Creek communities.

"We've provided a tremendous support system for disaster relief for the county," Chafin added. "We've responded several times to Greene County disasters."

She said federal cuts to food assistance programs may be placing additional demand on their services later this year.

"We're very concerned. We really will depend on the community for their support -- individuals, specifically, we hope will consider making contributions to these agencies," Chafin said.

SENIOR VOLUNTEERS

The Retired Senior Volunteer Program, of the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency, Inc., received an annual contribution of nearly $4,000.

"I haven't decided where we're going to cut," Director Ruth Phillips said. "I certainly don't want to have to cut any benefits to the volunteers.

"Hopefully we'll be able to keep the current volunteers and agencies involved and hopefully be able to keep [Greene County field coordinator] Betty Cook on for 25 hours a week. She's a real asset to the program.

"We'll have to deal with it," she added. "We'll still keep our presence in Greene County and keep our volunteers going. They're a great group of people."

KEEP GREENE BEAUTIFUL

Keep Greene Beautiful, a program of the Greene County Partnership, typically receives $3,430.

Director Jennifer Reynolds said that the program will have to take the cut "off the top."

"I have to cut back all over in the program," she said, noting particularly cuts in spending for promoting the program and distributing information.

VOLUNTEER CENTER

The Volunteer Center of Greeneville/Greene County received an annual $2,450 contribution.

Board President Ken Earl said that the impact to the center will be "pretty drastic."

"It doesn't sound like much, but we're a very small agency," he said. "It's going to impact us.

"We understand; everybody has to cut corners right now. We're down to bare bones right now, and we'll just have to see where we can go from here.

"That little bit of money doesn't sound like much, but it's significant to us."

FORESTRY DIVISION

The State Department of Agriculture Forestry Division received an annual $1,470 from the county.

Area Forester Neal White described this as a fee for the division's services related to firefighting and other responses.

"We don't stop providing service," he said. "We're not going to go away tomorrow and stop providing service to Greene County.

"We're going to continue to be here, and we're going to continue to do what we've done ever since we've been in Greene County."

WATERSHED ALLIANCE

The Middle Nolichuckey Watershed Alliance typically received $980 for office supplies.

Executive Director Paul Hayden said that the agency will have to review the budget and search for other funding sources for such items as copy paper and other supplies.

OTHER AGENCIES

Despite repeated efforts, The Greeneville Sun was not able to reach three of the agencies for comment before press time.

* The Community Tennessee Rehabilitation Center, at 241 Baileyton Road, typically received $31,850 from the county.

Manager Michele Keffer appeared before the County Commission during the public hearing to note that the county's funding ties to a much larger federal match, the loss of which could endanger several jobs at the center and services that the center provides.

* The Greeneville-Greene County Airport Authority has received $30,380 annually.

* The First Tennessee Human Resource Agency, at 704 Rolling Hills Drive, Johnson City, typically received an $11,760 contribution.

GREENEVILLE-GREENE COUNTY LIBRARY

The commission also voted to make a small percentage cut of about 1 percent to the county government's annual $84,500 allocation to the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library, which is a joint function of the county and the Town of Greeneville.

Although the County Commission approved its 2013-2014 county budget including the reduced amount for the library, approval for that action must also be given by Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett in order for the library to continue to receive the state assistance which is vital for the library's services.

Hargett's office oversees what is known as the maintenance-of-effort agreements for public libraries that are members of the state's library services system, including the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library.

The agreement, under state law, requires that a local government must provide at least as much financial support for its library in any given year as was provided the previous year.

In Greene County's case this year, the county must file a request for a waiver asking the Secretary's permission for the cut.

If the waiver is granted, it may only be for one year in order to avoid violating the county's maintenance-of-effort agreement.

If the waiver is approved, the library will receive $83,622 this year, as the County Commission voted to do.

The Town of Greeneville announced a few months ago that the town would continue to provide $84,500 to the library, even if the county contribution was somewhat smaller this year.

Usually, the Town matches exactly whatever contribution the county government provide to the library.

 
For more information and stories, see The Greeneville Sun.

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