By Katy Ruth Camp Marietta Daily Journal April 5, 2011 During the past four years, the Cobb County government has donated more than $15 million to local nonprofit groups. For the current fiscal year, nearly $3.5 million has already been approved for various groups, ranging from the Center for Family Resources to the Enrichment of Life Movement.But with the county facing a $31 million budget deficit this year, and with no indication of what the budget will be next year, some are wondering what kind of impact it would have on these groups if county funding were pulled.Most say cuts from the county would have drastic but not fatal results. “It’s helpful in some of our operational costs, like rent, audit fees, insurance, that are hard to find funding for,” Communities in Schools Marietta Executive Director Carol Fey said. Her group operates literacy and dropout prevention programs for Marietta City and Cobb County schools systems, Fey said. She said her group is slated to receive $15,466 so far this year. “Our budget is about $200,000, so it is a small part of our budget, but most of our funding goes toward the programs but not toward administrative costs. So it is needed.”Cobb Chairman Tim Lee said Monday that almost all of the funding for the programs comes from the general fund, though organizations have to apply through the Community Development Block Grant office for funding. If staff members from that office approve the application, Lee said it then comes to him but ultimately has to be approved by the Board of Commissioners.”That keeps some of the politics out of it,” Lee said.But the county’s donations to nonprofit groups has shrunk over the years, from nearly $4.1 million in fiscal year 2008, $4 million in 2009, $3.7 million in 2010 and $3.5 million this year. When asked if further cuts will be made to next year’s budget, Lee said: “I think there will be.”The Cobb County Convention and Visitors Bureau usually receives $40,000 in funding from the county, but Lee said he has not yet decided if they will receive that support this year.One of the county’s largest donations goes to the Cobb County Community Service Board. Since 2008, the group has received more than $2.3 million, and received over $580,000 this year. Executive Director Tod Citron said the group provides mental health, addiction and child case management services. And although the county’s allocation is a small portion of the program’s $17 million annual budget, Citron said the county’s funding is critical to the operations of his nonprofit group because the funding is spread over a variety of services and programs.”I know they’re looking very closely at what their spending dollars are because of the economic climate and funding situation. Any cut hurts, but we understand the situation that the county’s confronted with. But the services we provide, like mental health services, are just as important as law enforcement, safety, fire and education. This allocation has been in place for going on 20 years, so it’s not really a subsidy at this point,” Citron said.Kim Borna is chief executive officer of The Center for Children and Young Adults, which operates a group home for up to 37 teenagers ages 12 to 18 off Austell Road in Marietta. Borna said her organization operates on a nearly $2.6 million annual budget, and receives on average $103,000 per year. The county’s allocation goes mainly toward food costs, which can run up to $80,000 each year, Borna said.Borna said her group’s funding from the county has already decreased each year, along with grants from the United Way and other organization, so the home is dependent upon the county’s donation.”We’d have to expend funds to find funds, and curtail our capacity and ability to serve. The first things that would go are activities, because we would be out of funding for basic needs and would have to move those funds over. Our electric bill alone is $4,000 a month, so every bit counts,” Borna said, adding that no other branch of county government contributes to the CCYA. Borna said several other foster care homes in the metro area have shut down completely from lack of funding because the state only provides a third of the costs to house a teenager in foster care.Almost all of the county’s donations to nonprofits are at the discretion of the board, county Finance Director Jim Pehrson said, and were approved when commissioners adopted the fiscal year 2011 budget last September.
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