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County Council Meeting August 17

Policy on Outside Agency contributions defined
Process may be too onerous for small groups
Warwick Jones

Hopefully, the issue of Outside Agency contributions has now been resolved. Meeting as the Finance Committee, the Council approved a new policy last night. It will apply to all contributions in fiscal 2008 but have limited application for the current fiscal year.

Contribution to Outside Agencies, essentially charitable organizations, have been made by the County for a number of years with each Council member distributing a specific amount to agencies of their choice. The Post & Courier criticized the policy earlier this year. It was particularly critical of the recommendation by Council member Darby for a $500 contribution to a drug reform group.

To avoid further criticism, Council agreed to better define its policy and tighten up on the necessary qualifications of applicants. If there was any lingering dissent amongst Council members, it related to contributions for the current year and to those smaller organizations that did not fall under the 501 c category as defined by the IRS.

Council passes round the hat
Council member Darby stated that there were a number of smaller groups needing financial help who had been promised funds. It seemed that they would no longer qualify this fiscal year. One group which provided social services, has a failing TV which needed to be replaced. The amount of $700 was not a lot of money but it was a lot to this group, he said. Republican Council member Scott, who often good-humouredly needles his Democrat fellow member, offered to pay for half of the set if Council member Darby paid for the balance. This set off a chain reaction, which resulted in most, if not all the Council members agreeing to contribute to the cost. So with a general expression of camaraderie and good humor that would have particularly pleased the P&C with its concern for rifts amongst members, Council moved on.

All applicants must have 501 c status
Council member Bostic argued strongly for the retention of the 501c status for all applicants. Because some applicants may be neighborhood associations or church groups and who sought only small amounts, the original draft of the policy did not require them to have 501 c status. But it really was no problem for such organizations to form a 501 c entity, the Council member said. It was not costly and simply a matter of making application to the IRS and the State. The Committee acquiesced.

Too onerous for some applicants?
Although it may be a simple task to form a 501 c entity, the new guidelines may prove too daunting for some applicants. There is now an 8-page application form and applicants need to provide details relating to their organization. These details include profit and loss over recent years, matching fund plans, how when and where the sought funds will be applied. There are also obligations for reporting on spending over the period and a necessity for some form of auditing. We expect that for some of the smaller groups seeking modest funding, the benefit may not be worth the effort.

Other items
Although there were a number of other items of yesterday's Finance Committee agenda, most were dispensed with little discussion. The 2007 budget for CARTA was approved with no discussion. We make no comment here as the budget was presented to Charleston City Council about a month ago and was covered by Marc Knapp.

We will make reference to the presentation on the Roadwise Program made by the Cheif Deputy Administrator, Mr. Keith Bustraan. The presentation was a summary of progress more than anything else and dealt with spending of sales tax monies on transportation, the structure of Roadwise and the contract with LPA, the consultant. The presentation dealt with Disadvantaged Business Program and the attempt to increase the participation of minorities in transportation projects. The current goal is 10% with LPA committing to achieving 18% in its own hiring by the end of the year. The discussion suggested that the County is exceeding the 10% target.

The County will now require companies seeking contracts under Roadwise to offer on-the-job training programs as part of their contract and is looking to create 200 job opportunities. It will also assist firms in finding and placing candidates.

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