Council considers charitable fund process

Published 10:07 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Suffolk soon will come up with a new, more formal procedure to handle requests for city funds by civic and nonprofit organizations.

The City Council discussed the issue at length during its meeting last week, when Councilman Rob Barclay introduced a motion directing the city manager and city attorney to draft an ordinance establishing the process.

“I see a little bit of weakness in the process,” Barclay said when he introduced the motion. He said his proposal was “sort of a cultural change in the way we address these issues.”

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Currently, civic, charitable and nonprofit organizations are supposed to contact the budget office to request a place in the budget. Some, however, go directly before City Council, as did representatives from the Youth of America mentoring program at last week’s meeting.

Barclay’s motion for a more formal process came on the heels of a proposal to give $15,000 to the Tim Reid Scholarship Foundation and $20,000 to a Tidewater Builders Association education program. The money would have come from the contingency fund, which only has about $56,000 available.

Some council members balked at the proposal, saying the money should be saved for more pressing matters and emergencies.

“We’ve got some really big issues to be concerned about,” said Mayor Linda T. Johnson.

Some council members agreed, naming the Southeastern Public Service Authority funding debacle and the ever-present possibility of natural disaster as only two of those issues.

Councilmen Charles Brown and Leroy Bennett favored giving the money to the organizations.

“These two have been coming year after year after year,” Brown said. “We’ve always supported these programs.”

Bennett said the money would be used for Suffolk students.

“To me, it’s a lot cheaper to educate our children than to keep them down,” he said.

In the end, Barclay’s motion passed on a vote of 8-0. The new ordinance will be drafted by City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn and City Attorney Ed Roettger.

Council members deadlocked on the original motion to fund the Tim Reid Scholarship and the TBA education program. Under council rules, a tie vote ends in the motion’s defeat.