County might crack down on nonprofits
May 12, 2009
Summit County subsidizes private nonprofits that promote vaccines for uninsured children, shelter for women beaten by their husbands, affordable places for people to live and international dance performances.
Tax coffers get tapped for groups like Recycle Utah, Peace House, Habitat for Humanity and Summit County Friends of Animals. But with the economy in a recession officials aren’t sure they can afford to give nonprofits money from the county’s general fund this year.
"We talked about waiting until mid-June to see whether we can fund these or how we’re going to fund them," interim Summit County Manager Brian Bellamy said. "We’re kind of taking the wait-and-see approach to make sure we have revenues coming in."
Money that nonprofits would have typically received several months ago has still not been paid by the county.
"For the most part, they all understand that the budget is really tight because their budgets are really tight," Bellamy said. "Of course they want their money, but if it’s not there, it’s kind of hard to hand out the funds that we don’t have."
Nonprofits in Summit County are slated to receive about $162,000 from the 2009 general fund, according to Bellamy.
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"It’s a lot of money and we just want to make sure that we have the money before we hand it to the nonprofits," Bellamy said. "It is that tight and we’re watching every nickel and dime that we have."
Meanwhile, Summit County needs a policy for determining which groups should receive the money, Summit County Councilman John Hanrahan said.
On Wednesday, the Summit County Council expects to adopt rules that regulate nonprofits that apply for funding.
"I’m trying to get away from the potential perception that it’s who you know, whether you get the money or not," Hanrahan said. "I think we do have an obligation to open this up to everybody so it’s not simply the folks who know who get it every year."
The nonprofit set to receive the most this year is the People’s Health Clinic, a group Hanrahan helped found that provides health care for the uninsured in Summit and Wasatch counties.
But Hanrahan doesn’t have a conflict of interest, Bellamy said.
"Citizens who are involved in the community run for office and we want them to run for office because they are involved in the community," Bellamy said in a telephone interview. "What [Hanrahan] is trying to do is to make it an open process. He doesn’t want it to become an entitlement."
State law limits county officials to only funding nonprofits performing services the government would provide if it could, deputy Summit County attorney David Thomas said.
"They’re doing a service [the county] would have done like Habitat for Humanity," Thomas said. "Clearly, you can do it if it fulfills a core governmental function."
But formalizing the application process means beginning to require the nonprofits show how cash from the county gets spent, Bellamy said.
"We have never asked for that," he told the Summit County Council May 6. "That’s something I want to add to this, ‘How did you spend our money?’"
Groups will likely be required to submit applications by Oct. 1, which detail how they would use the grants.
"This is the citizens’ money," Bellamy said. "We’re going to ask them for an accounting for that money. It’s just the county doing our due diligence."
Nonprofits that could receive money this year include:
Recycle Utah $24,000
Park City Leadership $10,000
Peace House $20,000
Community Action $7,500
Eccles Center for the Performing Arts $10,000
Habitat for Humanity $15,000
Mountainland Resource Conservation and Development area $4,000
Park City Community Outreach Center $2,500
Green building initiative $5,000
People’s Health Clinic $30,000
Summit Wasatch Counties Children’s Justice Center $12,000
Summit County Friends of Animals $5,000
Summit Land Conservancy $8,000