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Non-profit organizations feel impact of county cuts

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com

As the Grand County Board of Commissioners worked through its first budget rebuttal session on Tuesday, Nov. 10, it was evident that some department heads were having a tough time stomaching staff recommendations for cutting their budgets.

But another group of beneficiaries may feel the county’s budget tightening even more acutely – non-profits

The board of commissioners’ preliminary budget includes major cuts in its contributions to non-profits whose budgets rely heavily on money from the county.

Mind Springs Health, which provides indigent and crisis mental health services in the county, is slated to receive no money from the county next year. This year, it received a total of $29,800.

The Grand County Historical Association, which received $50,000 this year, is facing a 50 percent cut for next year.

Headwaters Trails Alliance, which requested $75,000 for next year, may see its county funding reduced to $30,000 from the $46,500 it received this year.

Officials with these non-profits say the cuts will greatly reduce their abilities to provide services and in some cases will lead to job cuts.

Mind Springs Health Regional Director Tom Gangel said that cutting funding for crisis services could mean forcing the organization to charge patients for crisis services or move to a Medicaid only model.

Kathy Davis, program director at the organization’s Granby office, said charging for crisis services could discourage people from seeking help when they need it most.

“I’m telling you right now that if word gets around that it’s going to cost somebody money to be seen in crisis then people aren’t going to call us, and there will be consequences to that,” Davis said.

Grand County Rural Health Network Executive Director Jen Fanning, whose organization received a $5,000 cut, said that without crisis services, some aspects of her organization would feel the impact.

HTA Executive Director Meara Michel said the cuts to her organization would equate to eliminating 1.75 full-time positions. The loss of a volunteer coordinator position could equate to a loss of 2,500 volunteer hours next year, Michel said.

HTA is also in the midst of completing a countywide master trails plan.

“Without having a greater investment particularly on the west end of the county, it’s going to be a challenge for us to move forward with the strategic trails planning efforts and the trail projects that are going on in other areas,” Michel said.

Michael Turner, the Grand County Historical Associations’ vice president of ways and means, was more forward in his assessment of the impact a 50 percent cut would have on his organization.

“I get it that everyone has got to take a chunk on this thing, but if you cut us 50 percent that cripples us,” Turner said. “That really hurts. I’ll have to lose probably one of the two good employees that we have keeping this thing alive.”

Turner requested that county reduce the cut to 20 percent.

Since hearing from County Finance Director Scott Berger that the county’s spending trajectory was unsustainable, the board of commissioners has made plans to cut spending next year.

The cuts are having an impact across the board, but for non-profits, commissioners said their hands were more or less tied.

“It’s hard for us to give away money when we’re cutting our own employees,” said Commissioner James Newberry.

To continue funding departments and other beneficiaries at the current level, the county would need a four or five mill increase in property tax rates, Newberry said.

Commissioners suggest seeking funds elsewhere

Commissioners did raise the possibility of partnering with HTA to match grant funding with money from the county’s conservation trust fund.

For Mind Springs, Newberry suggested that the organization use that loss of money from the county as leverage for state funds.

“My point would be if we didn’t fund that and you had that deficit, that’s what we can take and we can show that to the state and we can be your ally when you go down and fight for these things,” Newberry said.

But Davis questioned what would happen to services in the interim.

“It’s great to talk about, ‘let’s go to the state and tell them we need more money,’ but in the mean time, what’s going to happen to the people in Grand County?,” Davis said. “That’s my concern.”

When asked whether he’d sought funds elsewhere, Turner said his organization was competing with other non-profits for limited resources in the county.

Throughout the hearing, the board displayed a whiteboard detailing their plans to rein in the budget over the next few years.

“I don’t envy the position you guys are in because I get that whiteboard,” Turner said “We’re all looking at it. The whole community is looking at it. These decisions now will be the legacy that you leave.”

The board of commissioners will adopt its final budget in December.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.


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