Maplewood officials recently suggested their community is funding the Community Coalition on Race for the benefit of South Orange and Maplewood -- without seeing South Orange pay up.
AMaplewood elected officials noted they will fund the CCR $34,200 for 2013, while South Orange funding remains an open question.
South Orange Village President Alex Torpey responded Monday with a statement:
During the 2012 Budget process, the Board of Trustees expressed reservations over the continued funding of non-profit community organizations. The Board eventually provided reduced funding to YouthNet and CCR, as a transitional move, and clearly communicated to both entities that they should not expect funding in 2013. The Board was clear that its policy would be to no longer provide donations to any outside groups and that all expenditures of public funds were to be made solely for goods or services received pursuant to clear written agreements. To that end, the Village has always had the option of contracting with any organization, non-profit or commercial, to provide specific services that the Village could or would otherwise provide itself in exchange for an agreed payment commensurate with the value of the services provided.
Speaking for only myself, I hope we continue to support the CCR in any way agreeable, as well as any other organization that so clearly provides such a valuable service to our community, as long as we agree on specific stipulations written into a SLA (service level agreement). The budget impact of supporting an organization like this is a fraction of a percentage compared to the larger structural financial issues that we should spend more of our time talking about - working on those will be what ultimately will save taxpayers real money without reducing the great services that we have come to expect living in South Orange.
The CCR, which serves both Maplewood and South Orange and seeks about 40 percent of its revenues through allocations from the two towns, is making a request for $18,000 from South Orange Village. (The Coalition requested $22,500 and received $18,000 from South Orange Village in 2012.) South Orange elected officials have not included CCR funding in the 2013 budget, according to Trustee Michael Goldberg. "There will be zero funding of non-profit organizations in the 2013 budget; however, a $15K service level agreement has been anticipated for YouthNet," according to budget documents.
At Saturday's meeting, Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca opened the conversation about the discrepancy in funding. "I see South Orange is listed here at $18,000. Is that expected [to be obtained] or is there still some question?"
Coalition Executive Director Nancy Gagnier told DeLuca the Coalition was at the "same point in the process with them as with you."
Committeeman Jerry Ryan noted, looking at the layout of the Coalition budget, "every activity is a shared activity for both communities."
"Even though Maplewood is paying more," added DeLuca.
Coalition Chair Fred Profeta — a former mayor of Maplewood and a founder of the Coalition — pointed out "South Orange is at least equal in private donations to Maplewood."
"Yes, but that's private funds," rejoined DeLuca.
"We are engaged in a joint effort with a partner that is not funding to the same level that we are," said Ryan. "We are subsidizing South Orange's lack of desire to participate."
Profeta noted, "In the history of the Coalition there was a time when South Orange's contribution was greater than Maplewood's." Profeta said the differing allocations was an effect of politics. "The decision to fund is essentially a political one. If there are these vicissitudes every year, then we get into these debates and that's not healthy."
Toward the end of the Coalition's presentation, DeLuca made a strong statement in support of the Coalition.
"I put my own money in, my foundation's money in," said DeLuca. "But there's a payback for someone else too, and they've got to step up."
Ryan worried what would happen if South Orange came "up with less. Are programs going to suffer? If history tells us anything, there is a hard road to get that money."
Gagnier thanked the Maplewood Township Committee for "that vote of support."
South Orange trustee Goldberg said, "It's unfortunate that once again Maplewood is inserting itself into South Orange's budget decisions. South Orange made a decision on this topic based on our own criteria and feedback from residents. I respect Maplewood's decisions to spend their taxpayer's money the way they choose and I expect they will respect ours."
"We continue to hold out hope that we will have the same success there," said Gagnier, referring to the South Orange Village Trustees. Gagnier said, however, if funding from South Orange fell short "for a year or a few years" the Coalition did have contingency funds it could use "at least for a time" and would work to increase fundraising.