Nonprofit organizations may have to show they'll provide “a return on investment” to receive money from Decatur City Council in the fiscal 2022 budget.
Chief Financial Officer Kyle Demeester said 28 nonprofits have requested $3.3 million from the city, an increase of about $350,000 over a year ago and $800,000 more than the council eventually appropriated. The City Council held two work sessions last week to hear the nonprofits' pitches, which are usually heard in August or September.
Demeester said the City Council will decide how much it will appropriate to nonprofits at a later date but he favors “staying flat” with the fiscal 2021 appropriations. The council budgeted $2.5 million for nonprofits in the budget for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.
Councilman Carlton McMasters said he’s “always been amazed with the amount of money our city gives out. The city is full of a lot of great organizations, but the city could use some of that money, too.”
Councilman Kyle Pike said the council probably needs to look back at the fiscal 2020 budget when there wasn’t a fear of the coronavirus pandemic’s possible impact on revenues. The fiscal 2020 allocations totaled almost $2.8 million.
Councilman Hunter Pepper said he wants a more in-depth discussion about the nonprofit appropriations. He also wants to speak separately with some of the individual nonprofit leaders.
“I want to see a benefit for the city before I give them the money,” Pepper said. “I want to know how my tax dollars are being spent.”
Pepper said he likes that some representatives of the nonprofits showed the council proof of how they spent the city's last appropriation.
Last year’s City Council cut nonprofit appropriations by $280,646 because of concerns about how the pandemic would affect revenue.
“They all do a lot of good for the public,” Pike said of nonprofits. “Maybe we need to make sure they’re giving the city a better return on our investment and some are quality of life issues that we can’t overlook. We have to have a conversation about how we want to fund them.”
The council in fiscal 2021 allocated $200,000 to four child-centered nonprofits from the share of sales taxes Decatur City Schools normally receives. The council usually gives DCS one-fourth of the city's 4% sales tax, but the school system agreed with the change last year.
Demeester said he plans to budget the school money in the same way again for fiscal 2022.
Most of the nonprofits stuck with the same appropriation requests they made last year, but there are requests for increases and new requests.
About three-quarters of the increased requests were related to Decatur Morgan Tourism, which makes a request based on what it estimates its share of lodging taxes will be. It requested $643,000 a year ago but is asking for $903,000 this year, an increase of $260,000 as hotel stays rebound following the worst of the pandemic. It received an allocation of $935,250 two years ago.
After getting its appropriations eliminated in the initial fiscal 2021 budget over a political controversy, the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce got $30,000 added by the council earlier this month. The chamber, now led by its new president and chief executive officer, Crystal Brown, again asked for $50,000 for business development and $50,000 for its five-year plan.
The council members said they were impressed with the presentation of John Joseph, executive director of the Decatur-Morgan County Entrepreneurial Center. He asked for $120,000 for the center and $90,000 for the Best and Brightest Initiative. This program recruits college graduates to the city by paying $15,000 of their student loans if they remain in Decatur for five years.
Joseph’s center got $100,000 in each of the last two years, and the initiative received $100,000 last year. Joseph reduced his request for the initiative to $90,000 for fiscal 2022.
The Morgan County Health Department, which has been actively involved in the fight against COVID-19 over the past year and a half, increased its request by $10,000 to $130,000. The council cut the department’s funding in 2020 but then restored it to $120,000 in fiscal 2021.
Hands Across Decatur, a nonprofit that helps the homeless, has changed its name to Hands Across Decatur Path Forward Center.
The group is moving to a larger 5,600-square-foot space at 1027 Fifth Avenue Southeast, so center Executive Director Sue Terrell asked for $50,000. This is $30,000 more than she requested last year from the city and did not receive. Her group has been unsuccessful in its attempts to get past city councils to add the nonprofit to city appropriations.
The Carnegie Visual Arts Center increased its request from $40,000 to $50,000 even though it has received only as much as $18,000 in past years. This fiscal year it is getting $17,000.
The Community Free Clinic upped its request from $59,280 to $75,000 while the Decatur Public Library upped its request by almost $20,000.
The Hudson-Alpha Foundation, which has been unsuccessful in getting an appropriation, reduced its requests in the last three years from $25,000 in fiscal 2020 to the latest request of $12,246 for fiscal 2022.
The Morgan County Emergency Management Agency reduced its request from $74,277 in each of the past two years to $52,000 for the new budget year.