Non-profits appear before county’s budget committee
Representatives from Keep Morristown-Hamblen Beautiful, Helen Ross McNabb and Rose Center gave presentations before the Hamblen County Commission during its committee meetings this week.
Beginning in November, the commissioners have heard from three such groups each month because of an initiative to reduce county contributions to non-profits by 25 percent.
KMHB Director Debi Stevenson addressed the commissioners first. She explained that KMHB is a non-profit organization affiliated with Keep America Beautiful.
“We work with businesses, schools, neighborhood groups and local government to improve our land, waters and build environments,” she said.
Stevenson said KMHB utilizes hundreds of volunteers and a staff that includes a board of directors and committee members.
She said the group’s history in Hamblen County predates its 1985 certification, and that the group contracts with Hamblen County to serve only Hamblen County residents.
KMHB assists the county with the disposal of hazardous waste and with landfill reduction Stevenson said, and it provides mandatory education initiatives aimed at businesses and schools and recently to helped address county storm water issues.
“Your investment each year generates a cost savings to taxpayers of Hamblen County and increases the quality of life,” Stevenson said.
She said beautification increases property values and attracts new businesses.
“For every dollar invested into our organization, we return $418.98 in cost-avoidance from administration and benefits back into the community. It’s our pleasure to do so,” she said.
Stevenson added that each year the group coordinates hundreds of volunteers to perform roadside and area pickup as part of the Great American Cleanup and to keep Hamblen County beautiful.
“It is estimated that the cost of littering in Hamblen County is $2,646 per day,” she said.
Stevenson informed the board that KMHB’s budget is $63,500 total, $38,000 of which is budgeted for salary and taxes.
The commissioners then heard from Helen Ross McNabb Vice President of Operations Jerry Vagnier and Youth Emergency Center Executive Director Brad Patterson.
Helen Ross McNabb, which provides mental health and addiction services, has been in Hamblen County since 2008, Vagnier said, when the group merged with New Hope Recovery Center.
Vagnier explained that, in addition to adults, the organization provides services to children through the Youth Emergency Shelter.
He mentioned the group had received notice the previous Thursday that its the merger with Y.E.S. had been approved by the state.
“We typically serve people who have the fewest resources in the community. That’s not everybody that we serve, but that’s the typical person that we serve. And we think that’s important because a healthy community needs a healthy network of health care services for its citizens,” he said.
Vagnier said HRM had six employees in Hamblen County when it merged with New Hope Recovery Center but now has 43 full-time positions, distributed between its two locations on Main Street and West North Third Street.
Patterson said Y.E.S. has been a part of the community for more than 30 years, and said it would not be able to provide the services it does without the funding it receives from the county.
Patterson said Y.E.S. began its Impact program last year, a mentoring program through which 10 volunteer mentors interact with children in Hamblen County Schools who Patterson described as “just about one call away from being in the system.”
County Mayor Bill Brittain said the county provides funds to Helen Ross McNabb, Y.E.S. and Impact on a case by case basis, each with an annual limit. Helen Ross McNabb’s limit is $5,000, Y.E.S.’s is $15,000 and Impact’s is $5,000.
Vagnier estimated Helen Ross McNabb’s current operating budget in Hamblen County is around $275,000.
Rose Center Executive Director Drew Ogle then addressed the commissioners.
“If you decide to cut our budget, then I will be faced with choosing which of our programs must be reduced,” Ogle said. “I’m not sure which it’ll be yet. It may be our children’s art program. It may be our preschool program in music.
“It may just be that the hours that our building and our services that are available to the public (are reduced) but, regardless, something will be reduced or eliminated.”
Ogle said he wanted to encourage the commissioners to maintain or increase funding levels to the Rose Center, instead, because a budget is a priority-setting tool in addition to a fiscal tool.
“When you say that you will help fund something, you’re saying that you believe that what we do is important, and I don’t believe that cutting non-profit funding and the services that we provide is the message that this body truly wants to deliver,” Ogle said.
He gave several reasons as to why he believes the arts are important, which included that the arts lead to more civic engagement in communities, greater communication and understanding among people and promotion of health and well-being.
“The services provided by the Rose Center help children do better in school,” he added. “They help build a 21st century workforce, and – because we’re talking to money today – I’ll say they support the economic development of Hamblen County.”
He said the state has studied the economic impact of the arts, and found that for every $1 of public funding to the arts, $4.17 in earned income are generated.
Brittain informed the commissioners that the funding the county provides to the Rose Center goes specifically to capital projects.
“Such as two years ago, the $5,000 went to help pay for a fire alarm system following a fire at Rose Center,” Brittain explained. “Last year it bought tables and chairs for Prater Hall, which is a revenue generator for Rose Center, and this year it’s been requested to help offset the installation of the new HVAC system. So it’s not for programming. It’s for specific items that we know what the money’s being spent on.”
-By Leanne Fuller, Tribune Staff Writer