Loudoun supervisor aims to restore nonprofit groups' funding

The Loudoun Community Health Center, which received $125,000 from the county last year, is slated to get $100,000 under this year's proposed budget.
The Loudoun Community Health Center, which received $125,000 from the county last year, is slated to get $100,000 under this year's proposed budget. (2008 Photo By Tracy A. Woodward/the Washington Post)
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By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 4, 2010

Loudoun County Supervisor Andrea McGimsey is planning a last-minute effort this week to roll back funding cuts to nonprofit groups that serve the needy.

McGimsey (D-Potomac) said she plans to present a motion at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday to restore about $129,000 in funding for health and welfare nonprofit groups. Cuts to the groups were included in the county's proposed fiscal 2011 budget, which is scheduled to be adopted by the board at the meeting.

The Board of Supervisors is considering allocating $689,400 from fiscal 2010 funding to nonprofit groups. McGimsey's motion would essentially keep most organizations' county allocations the same as last year's.

"I believe the nonprofits are very important partners in providing services to our most vulnerable citizens," McGimsey said. "We're talking about very little money, but it's a large amount to the organizations who care for our most vulnerable citizens."

McGimsey's move comes as regional nonprofit leaders in Northern Virginia have stepped up criticism of supervisors over the cuts. Chuck Bean, executive director of the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, said nonprofit groups across the region have suffered from cutbacks, as cities and counties try to close large budget gaps. But Bean said the depth of the cutbacks in Loudoun troubles him.

"Loudoun is one of the jurisdictions I am most concerned about," Bean said. "There's been less funding for critical services and nonprofits in Loudoun, and I'm afraid it's going to get cut even more."

Nonprofit organizations had sought about $1.3 million from Loudoun in the budget, about double the amount the county is expected to allocate without McGimsey's change. The Loudoun Community Health Center, which received $125,000 last year, is slated to get $100,000. Loudoun Cares, a hotline that refers people in need to resources and aid, received $50,000 a year ago and would get $40,000 from the county under the budget proposal. The Good Shepherd Alliance, which helps the homeless, received $60,000 in fiscal 2010 and had requested $70,000 for fiscal 2011 but would receive $55,000 in the proposed budget.

In many cases, nonprofit organizations said, they need county funding not only to support programs but also to leverage state and federal grants and recruit volunteers.

Northern Virginia Family Services had requested $47,696 from Loudoun but is set to receive $15,000. The organization offers services for pregnant women and parents of children up to age 3 and has a program to help low-income people who don't have Medicare or health insurance get free medication.

Mary Agee, chief executive of Northern Virginia Family Services, said the group will spend nearly $500,000 in the county this year providing services under the two programs.

Agee said working in Loudoun remained a challenge for nonprofit groups because the county government has had to put most of its focus on building schools, firehouses and other infrastructure to accommodate its growing population.

Agee also said she thought the nonprofit community in Loudoun needs to do a better job of educating policymakers about the role nonprofit groups play in providing a social safety net and improving quality of life.

"I don't want to come off saying Loudoun isn't rising to what needs to happen," Agee said. "But I'm not sure there has been the political will to look at the whole picture of what it means to be a caring community."

McGimsey said she isn't certain how much support her motion to restore funding is likely to receive from other supervisors. Supervisor Kelly Burk (D-Leesburg), whom nonprofits groups have seen as an ally, said she wasn't sure how she would vote. Burk said it was "incumbent on the organizations to find new ways of finding money."

Burk said McGimsey should expect resistance from board members who have sought to pare back government spending to avoid raising property taxes.

"Everything is taking a hit right now," Burk said.

Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling) said he opposed boosting funding to nonprofit groups this year except for those providing emergency food and shelter services.

"They should think harder about fundraising," Delgaudio said. "The taxpayer is not a mandatory donor to all these organizations. We have to respond to the bigger picture: There are some people who can't pay the tax bill in my district."

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