Nonprofits upset with allocation of funds

Group representatives say process has grown 'political.'

Published: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 12:02 a.m.

Early Learning Coalition of Alachua County Executive Director Gordon Tremaine said he would have preferred if the county's decision to fund his program did not affect the funding available for other organizations through the Community Agency Partnership Program. An earlier version of this article stated otherwise.

For nearly two hours Tuesday, representatives of nonprofit organizations lobbied county commissioners for funds from the Community Agency Partnership Program, with several arguing that the process of awarding the money had grown "political" and focused on too narrow a scope of services.

In the end, commissioners cut $100,000 from CAPP - reducing the overall allotment to $900,298. That move freed up $100,000 for the Early Learning Coalition of Alachua County, which funds a subsidized day-care program for children of the working poor.

In prior years, the organization received CAPP funding but was deemed ineligible this year as program criteria narrowed to focus on providing the poor with food, health care, housing and utility assistance.

After that, lobbying then began for the county to restore funding to the group.

ELC Executive Director Gordon Tremaine said the money approved Tuesday would be used as leverage to get $1.6 million in federal funding and keep 500 children in day care.

The vote to reduce CAPP monies to fund the ELC passed 3-2. Mike Byerly and Paula DeLaney dissented. They supported funding the group but did not feel the money to do so should be extracted from CAPP, since ELC was no longer an eligible program.

The decision means all groups approved for CAPP money will see their awards reduced - possibly by 10 percent.

Another group previously funded through CAPP but now ineligible is Three Rivers Legal Services, which provides pro bono civil legal services to the poor. Three Rivers Executive Director Allison Thompson questioned if that decision was "political."

"I was livid and I still am," Thompson said.

Representatives of the Florida Organic Growers, meanwhile, came to voice their opposition to the CAPP advisory board's recommendation not to fund any of a $54,000 request to purchase equipment, hire employees and start a public outreach campaign associated with a planned program allowing low-income individuals to use their EBT benefit cards at area farmer's markets.

Marty Mesh, with Florida Organic Growers, described the CAPP application and presentation as "the most dysfunctional process" this year.

While cutting CAPP funding, and working to cut an estimated $3 million from the general fund, commissioners said they planned to consider funding the Florida Organic Growers and Three Rivers Legal at upcoming budget meetings.

Theresa Harrison, executive director of Peaceful Paths domestic violence shelter, also argued the process had grown "politicized." She questioned why the United Way of North Central Florida was in line for 10 percent of the "whole pot" of CAPP funding when the organization is not a direct "service provider."

Peaceful Paths was recommended for approximately $105,000. The United Way was recommended for $100,000 for a program that sends home backpacks of food with poor school children.

Florida Organic Growers representatives also objected to that funding, saying their fresh food was more healthy for the poor and would help combat childhood obesity.

Steve Drago, with ARC of Alachua County, objected that his organization serving the developmentally disabled requested more than $63,000 and was recommended for only $10,000.

Representatives of Planned Parenthood and the Alachua County Organization for Rural Needs health clinic voiced opposition to a reduction in their recommended funding to free up money for programs that did not meet CAPP criteria.

Tremaine also said he would have preferred if the money for his organization did not reduce the funds available to other nonprofits through CAPP and offered to donate $1,000 to the program.

Byerly said he believed the nearly two-hour debate was not unexpected or unusual.

"That process is always contentious ... particularly at a time we are cutting budgets," he said.

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