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Unicoi County Commission Budget Committee discusses funding for nonprofits

By Brad Hicks

The Unicoi County Commission’s Budget & Finance Committee met May 16, marking the second time this month the panel worked toward the development of the county’s overall budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

This time, nonprofit funding was the primary topic of conversation. 

Like county officeholders and department heads, nonprofit organizations across the county are asked to submit funding requests to be reviewed by county commissioners.

The county in 2016-17 provided more than $152,500 in funding to a variety of local nonprofits. These nonprofits are seeking a total of more than $197,300 in county contributions in the 2017-18 fiscal year, or an increase of around $44,800 over the prior year.

The nonprofit request that received the most attention from the Budget & Finance Committee during last Tuesday’s meeting was the contribution sought by the Unicoi County Family YMCA. The YMCA is seeking $12,000 contribution from Unicoi County in the 2017-18 fiscal year, up nearly $10,000 from the $2,375 county contribution the agency received in 2016-17.

After some discussion, the committee opted to take no action on the YMCA’s funding request. Instead, officials wish to review a current financial statement from the organization before making a decision on the county’s contribution. Officials with the YMCA may also be asked to meet with the Budget & Finance Committee to further discuss the request once the financial statement has been reviewed.

The committee also opted to recommend that funding for a pair of entities seeking a contribution increase in 2017-18 remain at the 2016-17 level.

The Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce is seeking $15,000 in county funding in the upcoming budget year, up more than $12,000 from the $2,350 it received from the county in 2016-17. The committee voted last week to recommend that the county’s contribution to the Chamber remain at the 2016-17 amount.

Also seeking an increase in the 2017-18 fiscal year is the Unicoi County Heritage Museum, which is asking for $3,000 in the new year. The Budget & Finance Committee recommended that the county provide the museum with $950 in county funding, which is the same amount the museum received in 2016-17.

However, the committee recommended meeting the 2017-18 funding requests of several organizations, despite these requests exceeding the amount the county contributed in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Unicoi County’s Soil Conservation District requested  $5,000 in county funding for the new fiscal year, up from the $3,000 it received in 2016-17. The Budget & Finance Committee voted to recommend extending the $5,000 sought for 2017-18 to the agency.

In 2016-17, Unicoi County contributed $1,975 to the county’s Little League organization. Unicoi County Little League requested a contribution of $3,000 in the new fiscal year. The committee voted to recommend the full County Commission’s approval of the increased funding for the upcoming fiscal year.

Both the Children’s Advocacy Center and Second Harvest Food Bank received $475 from Unicoi County in 2016-17, and both organizations are seeking $1,000 in county funding for 2017-18. The committee voted to recommend approval of the funding increases.

The Clinchfield Senior Adult Center’s 2017-18 request for funding was $33,000. While the Budget & Finance Committee did not vote to extend this amount, the panel did recommend providing the senior center with $28,000 in county funding in the new fiscal year, a $3,000 increase over the $25,000 the center received in 2016-17.

The funding recommended for the Soil Conservation District, Little League, Second Harvest Food Bank, Children’s Advocacy Center and Clinchfield Senior Adult Senior Adult Center represents a total of $7,075 more than the entities received during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Ten of the 23 organizations submitting contribution requests are seeking the same funding in 2017-18 as was received in 2016-17. The First Tennessee Development District is again seeking $1,803 from the county. The Tennessee County Services Association is seeking $1,230 in the new fiscal year, the same amount it received the prior year, and the Tennessee County Commissioners Association is again seeking $1,250.

The Southside Volunteer Fire Department has requested a county contribution in the amount of $30,000. The Limestone Cove Volunteer Fire Department is requesting $15,000 from the county, and the Unicoi Volunteer Fire Department is seeking a $10,000 contribution. The funding requests from each of these fire departments match the contributions they received from the county during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The First Tennessee Human Resources Agency is seeking a total of $17,209 from Unicoi County in 2017-18, the same amount it received the prior year. The U.S. Forest Service is asking for an $800 contribution, the amount it received during 2016-17, and the county’s Veterans’ Services Program is seeking the $7,950 in 2017-18 it received the year prior.

Increases sought by other organizations were not acted upon during last week’s meeting. Unaka Mountain Search & Rescue is asking for $5,000 in the new fiscal year, up slightly from the $4,750 it received in 2016-17. Frontier Health, which received $1,000 in 2016-17, is requesting $3,000 in 2017-18. The Unicoi County Public Library is asking that its $21,500 2016-17 contribution be increased to $23,000 in the new fiscal year, and Unicoi County Imagination Library is asking for $2,500 in the upcoming year, up from the $1,200 it received from the county in 2016-17. The Tennessee Rehabilitation Center, which received $2,250 in 2016-17, is requesting $5,654 in 2017-18.

The budget development process is in the most preliminary of stages, as county commissioners await information on how much revenue each penny on the county’s property tax rate is expected to generate in the new year and the county’s overall anticipated revenue for 2017-18. 

Projected revenues are slated to arrive in June, and officials should learn the value of the property tax penny after June 14, after the Board of Equalization has finished meeting to close out the reappraisal process.

Because it is still early in the budget process and some uncertainty with regards to county employee insurance remains, changes to the nonprofit contributions agreed upon during last week’s meeting could again shift before the budget is presented to the full Unicoi County Commission for its consideration.

The Budget & Finance Committee opted to hold off on further meetings until the penny value is determined and anticipated revenues become available. The panel set its next meeting for June 19 at 1 p.m.