Commissioners approve revised nonprofit funding policy

Candler resident Jerry Rice held up a list of nonprofits requesting money from the county with a big red “X,” urging commissioners to reject funding them. Photo by Max Cooper.

In the weeks leading up to their May 7 meeting, Buncombe County Commissioners debated stringent standards that would’ve limited nonprofits ability to request county funding for years to come. But when it came time to vote today, they settled on a slight rewording of the existing policy.

In a unanimous 7-0 vote, commissioners added language to the county’s guidelines requiring nonprofits that receive county funding to submit audited finance statements and IRS990 forms to the Buncombe County Finance Department annually. “In general, administrative costs of 12 percent will be used as a guideline; however, each application will be considered based on program need and community impact,” it reads.

Commissioner Joe Belcher’s original proposal, presented weeks earlier during the board’s budget retreat, required that the 12 percent threshold be met. In addition, it would have barred nonprofits’ annual funding requests from exceeding the inflation rate, as determined by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ consumer price index. And it also would’ve capped county funding at 25 percent of a nonprofit’s operating budget.

But all of those ideas were dropped ahead of the vote, as Belcher negotiated with other commissioners behind the scenes and got a better sense of what they were willing to support. For the most part, the guidelines approved May 7 just reiterated an existing policy that had been in place since 2008; that policy requires that nonprofits open their books and be evaluated through performance contracts that are only renewed if the agreed goals are achieved. In terms of capital projects, the policy limits the county’s contribution to $500,000 per year.

Still, as he cast his vote in support, Belcher said he was happy with the revised policy and noted that it will help “clarify” the prior one. He emphasized that his ideas aren’t about “being against nonprofits,” adding: “We use nonprofits to do some good work for the county.”

Board Chair David Gantt noted that the measure doesn’t prevent “a nonprofit from presenting [its] case” for county funding. And in recent weeks, many have: Heading into the July 1 start of the next fiscal year, 31 of the county’s more than 1,600 nonprofits are collectively asking for about $8.64 million, dwarfing the roughly $1.26 million awarded last year.

The commissioners didn’t make any decisions on those funding requests or even discuss them during their May 7 meeting. The only attendee to mention them was Candler resident Jerry Rice, who used a general public-comment period to hold up a list of the nonprofits with a big red “X” marked through them. “The big red “X” on there means get rid of it, don’t even consider it,” he demanded.

Commissioners have until June to finalize those spending decisions and pass a budget.


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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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