In the first round of Shelby County budget hearings, non-profits were faced with stern cuts in the amount of grant money available to them, due to the county's need to pay for the Unified Schools system.
"Do we have $87,000? Not that I can find!," said Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer.
"You weren't able to come up with the savings the rest of your $9.whatever-million budget?," questioned Commissioner Steve Basar.
"We're going to give everybody five minutes," said Commissioner Melvin Burgess.
"If you want $87,000 I need some help," Commissioner Shafer added.
Could you in five minutes explain who you represent, what your organization does and justify why you need thousands of dollars in grant funding from the cash-strapped Shelby County Commission just to minimally continue on with what you're doing?
That was the yeoman's task that fell on representatives from 20 city and county non-profit agencies who attended the first of a series of county budget hearings for the fiscal year 2014. In an annual ritual that seems to grow more painful every year for non-profits, it took only a few words from Commissioner Shafer to lay down the gauntlet to those who earnestly came with hat in hand.
"I want to remind you that the city of Memphis owes the school system money, several million dollars that we are going to desperately need this year if the school system in going to survive," she said.
Yet, though possibly intimidated on the inside, the non-profit reps enthusiastically plowed ahead using graphs, charts, still pictures and videos to tout their cases before not even a quorum of commissioners who attended the hearing.
None were any more persuasive than representatives from the Mid-South Food Bank and the New Memphis Institute.
"We're serving Shelby County through our initiatives of feeding families, feeding seniors and feeding children."
"You'll see that our investment of $150,000 each year," added Nancy Coffee of the New Memphis Institute. "The New Memphis Institute turned $90 million in economic impact."
A "best bang for the bucks" results also figured into the request by Attorney General Amy Weirich for an additional $87,000 to continue a previously federal grant funded truancy program whose financing is coming to an end. Since 2007 it's made impressive headway in curbing juvenile absenteeism.
"It saves everybody money, time, energy and frustration down the road," DA Weirich said.
It's "smart money" now to keep us from spending stupid money down the road.
"We're cutting into the bone," Commissioner Shafer said. "We've already cut out all the fat. We're cutting into the bone and we're looking to amputating a couple of toes.
Nothing like a little "butcher shop" humor to start off another budget season.
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