In all the excitement when the Guilford County Board of Commissioners adopted a $600-plus million budget a few weeks ago, virtually no one noticed a round of last-minute additions of community organizations that – though you almost certainly didn’t know it – will now get some of your county tax dollars this year.
These allocations were nowhere to be found in the budget Guilford County Manager Mike Halford’s recommended in May.
However, one or more commissioners wanted the funding included – because, when the final budget showed up, all sorts of new and never-before-funded non-profits were getting county dollars.
Before 2012, when a Democratic majority ruled the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, each May and June there was a lot of argument about which non-profits to fund. Some taxpayers complained frequently about the seemingly haphazard reasons for some groups getting funding.
In some cases, there were clear ties to county commissioners who were big advocates of the cause or were good friends with the person running the organization. The funding was often described as “horse-trading,” with some commissioners’ votes on a giant county budget contingent on $25,000 or $30,000 for this group or that group.
When Republicans took control of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners in 2012, much of that haphazard non-profit funding was cut out.
The Republican commissioners who were calling the shots said that the non-profits, in many cases, are very worthy groups that do great work in the county. However, non-profit funding, they argued, is not the charge of county government, which is obligated to fund everything from schools to law enforcement to public health with very limited funds.
It was also, Republican commissioners argued, not fair to fund some community-based groups handsomely while others, equally worthy, weren’t getting a dime of county money.
In December of 2020, the Board of Commissioners became a Democratic-majority board again. In this first budget of the new Democratically-controlled board – the budget for fiscal 2021-2022 – a list of non-profits getting funded are back again with no explanation. Many of the groups are well known for good work in the community. Some are less well known.
Here’s a list of the added community groups funded in the new budget:
- Greensboro Alumnae Delta Cultural Enrichment Center, $5,000
- The Greensboro Business League, $72,000
- Backpack Beginnings – Food Delivery Box Truck, $65,000
- Puzzle Play, $20,000
- Sister Circle, $20,000
- Triad Adult Day Care of High Point, $25,000
- Greensboro Men’s Club Foundation, $50,000
- Carl Chavis YMCA “For non-personnel-related support,” $15,000
- Hayes Taylor YMCA, $25,000
- Black Suit Initiative/ Sparrow’s Nest, $20,000
- Greensboro/Guilford County Crime Stoppers, $50,000
One interesting aspect is that, in the budget, the list totaling $367,000 in spending is marked by a double asterisk that leads to the bottom of the page in fine print: “Funding based on verification of non-profit status and other county funding policies and guidelines.” One way to read that is, “These were tacked on by commissioners at the last minute and county staff, therefore, has not had time to vet them like we usually do.”
A google search is needed to find out more about some of the groups. Puzzle Play, for instance, which got $20,000 in the new budget is, according to google, an “Australian pre-school themed TV show for young children that aired Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 9:00 am on Network Ten.” That’s probably not the same Puzzle Play that Guilford County’s $20,000 went to – however, based on the information provided publicly by the commissioners, it could be.
In past years, there have been some organizations that have shown up and been approved for funding toward the end of the budget process. However, for the most part, the commissioners have had public discussions about the addition of a non-profit organization that was about to get funding. In many cases, representatives of the group would come in and address the board in a public meeting. Often, the board even voted in pre-budget work sessions to fund an organization.
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, when asked about the last-minute additions to the budget in the new budget, said that the process this year for non-profit funding was not intrinsically different than it has been in the past.