As the Hernando County commissioners and their staff prepare next year's budget, they need to scrutinize every expenditure to offset an anticipated $9.6-million loss in revenue created by property tax initiative Amendment 1.
However, it would be irresponsible to cut funding to a long-standing charitable disbursement that averages a 4-to-1 return on the commission's investment.
For the relatively nominal outlay of $100,000 each year for the past five years, the commission has provided essential aid to various social service agencies that rely on that seed money to obtain state and federal matching grants. This year those agencies include a shelter for victims of rape and domestic violence, a shelter for runaways and displaced youth, a health center for the uninsured, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. In past years, the Association for Retarded Citizens was a beneficiary of this small donation.
Most of those organizations are bracing for decreased funding from the state Legislature, and it is more important than ever that they have the County Commission's contributions to substantiate their requests for additional money.
The demand at these agencies, some of which are crisis-driven, is increasing with the anemic economy and the decline in private-sector contributions.
As reported recently by Hernando Times social services reporter Chandra Broadwater, cutting the $100,000 allocation from the County Commission most likely would result in the loss of more than $500,000 in grant money that is desperately needed to keep these agencies viable. If they do not receive that kernel of cash, the result is a snowball effect that eventually will cost taxpayers more for indigent medical care, counseling, court fees and law enforcement, for example.
The commission has no choice but to trim its expenses. But cutting this modest and sensible expenditure would be imprudent, and it will place a greater burden on a segment of the community that is vulnerable, most through no fault of their own. The budget needs to be balanced, but not on the backs of people who already are unable to support themselves.