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County wary of new grants

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Published on: Thursday, May 16, 2013

By Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE - For organizations in Montgomery County dependent on county funding Tuesday’s County Council meeting was a possible warning sign about the future.

The Council approved County Executive Ike Leggett’s recommendation to fund 127 discretionary community grants in the fiscal year 2014 operating budget for a total amount of more than $4.57 million. In addition, the council staff recommended 42 grants to the tune of more than $1.54 million, but those grants were placed on the reconciliation list for further deliberation by the council. Community grants are provided to organizations which are deemed to improve the quality of life for county residents.

One concern for organizations in 2014 could be the council staff’s recommendation of $1.54 is less than the $2.2 million the council approved last year, and less than the target of $2.9 million the council set in February.

According to a packet for the meeting put together by Peggy Fitzgerald-Bare, the council’s grants manager, there were many proposals for funding and it was difficult for the staff to trim the list down. The recommendations were based on those made by grants advisory groups comprised of citizens which consulted with staff.

Amid the discussion for approving Leggett’s recommendation, Councilwoman Nancy Floreen said she was concerned about how much funding the county provides and the council needs to look into how much private funding each organization does.

“These are great services,” Floreen said. “I am very supportive of all of this but I don’t think they should be all funded by the government. I would like to give some thought as to how that should be in the future.”

Councilwoman Valerie Ervin agreed with Floreen and said organizations may be developing an expectation the county will always provide the same level of support every year. Some organizations do no private funding, she said, which is a problem for the county.

“We need to take a real hard look at the fact that we are not a bottomless pit of taxpayer money, although we should play a significant role,” Ervin said. “I do think there should be some approach that the council takes in terms of how we look at private funding.”

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