South Orange Continues CCR Funding
After months of uncertainty, the final decision was based on "fairness."
The question about whether South Orange would give funds the Community Coalition of Race was answered on Monday at the town’s Board of Trustees meeting.
With a vote of 5-1, the BOT passed Resolution 2012-077, which approved the introduction of the 2012 Municipal Budget and included $22,500 for CCR from South Orange. Trustee Michael Goldberg was the sole nay vote.
Maplewood had already included 2012 funding for the CCR in its budget which was introduced last month. Maplewood approved a $34,200 allocation for the CCR but has tied that funding to particular programs and services, as is also the cae with the three other non-profits that the town funds.
Following a lengthy discussion by the trustees, it was decided that funding would remain in the budget for 2012, but that both CCR and YouthNet would be aware that South Orange would cease funding in 2013. The decision and subsequent vote came after months of uncertainty about what action the BOT would take concerning CCR’s funding.
During a budget meeting in July 2011, the BOT took a straw poll and agreed to cut funding to non-profit organizations. However, no official action was taken. CCR was discussed and the BOT decided to give an offer of “in-kind” services to the group in lieu of actual monetary funding.
In October 2011, an offer was extended to CCR that South Orange would house the Coalition in the Baird Center. Included in the offer was a five-year lease for office space, liability insurance, and internet connections. CCR’s Board of Trustees took a vote at their October meeting and rejected the offer with 14 nays and 3 abstentions. There were no yays.
At the October 17 BOT meeting, following a question by Goldberg about why the Coalition would be presenting with other non-profits, Trustee Mark Rosner explained that no actual action had yet to be made to defund CCR since the budget hadn’t been passed for 2012.
On Dec. 4, in an e-mail to then-Interim Administrator Reagan Burkholder and Chief Financial Officer John Gross, Goldberg asked for confirmation that the funding for CCR had been taken out of a proposed 2012 budget and if the Coalition would be accepting the in-kind offer. Two weeks later, Gross informed Burkholder in an e-mail that CCR’s funding had not yet been removed.
On Dec. 20, CCR Executive Director Nancy Gagnier submitted a draft budget and funding request to South Orange. CCR’s budget included an expected $22,500 from South Orange, a far cry from the offer of in-kind services extended by the town two months earlier. In an e-mail to Gross, Gagnier said that "the acceptance of office space, insurance and internet connection was put on hold until the (CCR trustees) have a sense of whether there will be cash support in 2012 as well."
In 2012, members of CCR have been frequent visitors to BOT meetings to lobby for funding and support. The CCR members concentrated on explaining the mission of CCR and the work they do around town. However, the BOT stressed that the decision to defund CCR was never about the organization specifically.
“This was never about the mission of the Coalition,” said Goldberg. “This was a financial decision, about doing things more fiscally responsible.”
During the deliberation about the funding in March, it was revealed that YouthNet had yet to be informed of their impending defunding. Due to that, Trustee Deborah Davis Ford stated her argument that it wasn’t fair to fund one and not the other.
“We are not going to fund one and not the other,” said Davis Ford. “It is the perception of fairness.”
During the debate, Village President Alex Torpey stated that South Orange would be developing a policy about how to deal with non-profit organizations, no matter the size or service they offer.
“This should not be decided based on one organization or another,” said Torpey. “We should decide as a policy about contracting for services with non-profits or for profits. We should create that policy and then we should discuss how the application process works and how an organization can become part of that.”