Frederick County Commissioner supports nonprofit funding, despite opposition -- Gazette.Net



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A Frederick County commissioner who broke ranks with the majority of his Republican peers in regard to county funding for social services will continue to try to convice them to rethink their position, even if it aligns him with liberal causes.

“I suppose I am closer to the Democrats on this one,” said Commissioner Paul Smith (R), who now joins Commissioner David Gray (R) in supporting nonprofits with tax dollars.

“[ Commissioners’ President] Blaine Young has taken an extreme position on this and that’s not good for him,” Smith said, referring to Young’s recent decision to raise funds for a possible run for governor in 2014.

Smith recently recommended putting $113,000 into the county’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget for 10 nonprofit agencies — a sum he said is paltry, but can make an enormous difference to residents. The majority of commissioners, however, have committed to a pledge to cut nonprofit funding each year of their term, ending with completely cutting money to nonprofits in 2014, the final year of their term.

Although Smith concedes his suggestion will go nowhere this year, he’s not giving up his effort to convince colleagues some social services need help, especially in a down economy. Commissioners vote on the proposed $466 million budget today.

“Hopefully people will come around,” Smith said.

Smith, who has been on board with three of the five commissioners, including Young, Kirby Delauter and Billy Shreve on various issues, said he still agrees with them philosophically, including shrinking the size of government.

“I don’t want to demonize them and there is no sense alienating them because then you lose all effectiveness,” he said.

But Smith said he never took a hard stance on funding nonprofits during his campaign for commissioner in 2010, and doesn’t agree with the “drastic measures” supported by the majority of the board.

Young countered that Smith is “picking and choosing” agencies to fund, agencies Smith — who Young considers “a good friend” — has not personally contributed money to in the past.

“Folks he felt were winners, he wants to give taxpayer money to …and he never considered them worthy enough to give $5 to himself,” Young said.

Smith recommended varying amounts of funding for 10 agencies, including Daybreak Adult Daycare, Frederick Community Action Agency,The Religious Coalition, Goodwill Industries, Heartly House and The Frederick Arts Council. Many of those agencies, he said, leverage county funds with grant money and private contributions.

“The little we do put in can be a big help to them,” Smith said.

Daybreak Adult Daycare provides services to adults who cannot be alone during the day when many of their families are working, said director Christina Forbes. Daybreak received no money from the county this year; money in previous years used to subsidize the $76 per day cost per person. Losing that subsidy means some families cannot afford the service, she said.

At Goodwill, some investment up front will save the county money in the long-term, said executive director Dan Kurtenbach. Among other programs, Goodwill provides job training to inmates at the Frederick County Detention Center as a way to reduce recidivism. County cuts hurt that program, which had curtailed recidivism rates from an average of 60 percent to 30 percent since it was instituted four years ago, he said.

Smith recommended the Frederick Community Action Agency receive $18,000, money director Mike Spurrier said would help hire a part-time physician at the primary health care clinic, which serves the homeless and uninsured.

Because the county funds entities such as the Citizen’s Nursing and Rehabilitative Center, plus other social services, Smith said the board is “being inconsistent.”

As for the county’s involvement in social service programs and entities, Young said the county knows exactly what it’s getting and how much it costs to run these programs, unlike those of other agencies.

The Religious Coalition, he said, is supposed to be made up of churches in the county. Of 400 churches, only 100 participate, according to Young, who contends because nonprofits are exempt from property taxes, they’re already getting government help.

“Government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers,” he said. “We already make a donation to society.”

kheerbrandt@gazette.net