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Nonprofit allocations raise commissioner eyebrows

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By Damon Lawrence

Roane County employees who don’t work for the school system might not get a raise for the second year in a row.

With that in mind, the county’s plans to give $127,450 to nonprofit organizations during the 2010-11 fiscal year isn’t sitting well with some commissioners.

Former budget director Alva Moore said it would cost about $103,000 to give a 1-percent raise to employees.

“The only question I would ask is you’re going two years without a pay raise for employees, yet we’re giving ($127,450),” Commissioner Ron Berry said at last week’s budget committee meeting.  

Berry wasn’t the only budget committee member with questions about money allocated to nonprofits.

“This is the first time I’ve looked at these figures,” first-term Commissioner Randy Ellis said.

Long-time Commissioner Bobby Collier said the county has been donating money to nonprofits for years.

“It’s things in there like the Michael Dunn Center that are really dependent on us for this kind of help,” he said.

A commission resolution proposes the county give to the following non-profits during the 2010-11 fiscal year: Child and Family Services ($2,780), Michael Dunn Rehabilitation Center ($30,000), Mid-East Community Action Agency ($13,547), Roane County Heritage Commission ($1,500), Michael Dunn Day Care Center ($10,823), East Tennessee Human Resources Agency ($8,800), Roane County Rescue Squad ($35,000) and Child Advocacy Center of the Ninth Judicial District ($25,000).   

“There may be some that shouldn’t be on here and some that need to be added if we get them down here and ask them,” Berry said. “I’d just like to see a letter of request that ties this money to something.”

Berry pointed out the $25,000 to the Child Advocacy Center of the Ninth Judicial District.

“That seems awfully high,” he said.

“My question is what are they going to use $25,000 for?” Ellis said.

Collier offered an explanation, but Ellis wasn’t satisfied.

“I want them to come and tell me that,” Ellis said.

“Well, they have,” Collier responded. “That’s how they got the $25,000.”  

“They haven’t done it to this budget committee,” County Executive Ron Woody said.    

The current budget committee membership has only existed for a few weeks.
The motion to recommend the nonprofit appropriations resolution to the full commission was withdrawn at last week’s meeting.

The committee will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget for 2010-11 at the courthouse at 5:30 p.m on Thursday. A budget committee meeting will be held following the hearing.

The committee could address the nonprofit resolution during the meeting.

“A letter is fine with me,” Berry said. “I’d just like to see what’s involved.”

“These all are probably worthy programs and great programs,” Ellis added. “But this is the first time I’ve sat down and seen this, and I don’t know what it’s being used for.”