Non-profits keep budget requests low

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

STAR STAFF
khelms@starhq.com

   Day two of the Carter County Budget Committee workshops continued Tuesday with two non-profit agencies on the agenda requesting budget increases for the 2003-04 fiscal year. But even those requests for increases were meager, as client after client expressed sympathy for this year's budget dilemma.
   Kathy Dula, speaking on behalf of Elizabethton Senior Citizens, said her organization is seeking $2,000 over last year's $16,000 from the county. Soil Conservation sought a $1,000 increase, from $21,000 last fiscal year.
   Other agencies on the agenda left their funding requests at last year's level, including: Community Day Care, $1,500; Dawn of Hope, $2,000; Elizabethton Parks & Recreation, $25,000; Elizabethton/Carter County Boys/Girls Club, $10,000; Tennessee Vocational Training Center, $17,000, and the Carter County Chapter of the American Red Cross, $1,500.
   Dula said the Elizabethton Senior Citizens Center served 660 clients over the age of 60 last year. The center provides transportation, daily lunches, craft classes, aerobics and other activities for seniors. The Options program, which delivers meals to the elderly, currently serves 176 clients.
   The center's total budget for this year is $93,879 -- a 10 percent decrease over last year, Dula said. The decrease is the result of not replacing an employee who resigned. The center will save money by utilizing volunteers rather than hiring another person.
   Dula said the center is anticipating a deficit as a result of $4,400 in unexpected repairs and would use the $2,000 budget request to cover that deficit.
   "I know it's going to be a hard year for the county all the way around," she said, but the money is needed to help maintain services.
   Budget Committee member Bill Armstrong asked Dula, "Are you taking care of all the people who request meals?"
   Dula said that, as a matter of fact, Sue Heaton, who manages the Options meal program, "was expressing her frustration yesterday" at not being able to meet the demand. "We have one lady on the meal route that's 82 years old and lives by herself," Dula said.
   County Executive Dale Fair asked whether there were any capital improvements planned.
   "We're hoping the city will replace our roof this year," Dula said. "In the pantry, the roof caved in."
   Fair noted that the outdoor canopy also is in need of replacement.
   Ruth Sanders with Community Day Care said her organization, which takes care of low-income children while their parents work, will have been in existence 33 years in December.
   "It was organized to help low-income people get off of welfare and onto the work force," Sanders said. "So for 33 years, we've been running after these little fellas, loving them and taking care of them so their parents could get on their feet."
   Community Day Care is seeking $1,500, the same as last year. "Our main goal is to see that these children are fed and loved, and to be 'mamaws' to them." Sanders said the center is on the same food program as school children are on, and "some of these little fellas, it's the only hot meal they get a day, you can tell."
   In 2002, the center served 104 children ranging in age from 6 weeks to 6 months. Of those, 45 were Carter County children, 56 were from Elizabethton, two were from Washington County and one from Sullivan County. There are 47 children on Families First, which used to be the welfare program, she said. Only 24 children are on tuition-pay. "We don't turn anybody down that comes to us," Sanders said.
   Lee Chase with Dawn of Hope, which is seeking $2,000, said his agency serves 219 clients, 13 of which are from Carter County. Chase said the number is down quite a bit because a sister agency which served people in Carter County went out of business several years ago and the state of Tennessee brought in a North Carolina agency to serve them in a day setting.
   Chase said 29 of the 220 staff members reside in Carter County. Dawn of Hope operates 18 homes with clients requiring round-the-clock care. "Most have three [staff] people in them. The state mandates two," he said. The clients are all mentally handicapped, he said, and some have significant medical problems.
   "I know you don't hear this very often, but if this is one of those years that you have to cut our allocation, I would request to come back before you at another time," he said.