Supervisors cut donations to nonprofits in half

In a continuing effort to battle losses in tax revenues and state funding, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on March 23 to cut its $10 million Neighborhood Reinvestment Program’s budget in half next fiscal year.

Representatives from roughly 100 county nonprofits voiced opposition to the reduction, which provides annual grants for services. Starting July 1, each of the five supervisors will be able to divide only $1 million in donations among the nonprofits in their districts. In previous years, each had $2 million to divvy out.

“We anticipate further cuts to state-mandated county programs,” Chairwoman Pam Slater-Price said. “Coupled with severe losses in sales and property tax, it was prudent to move money into the county general fund to help make it through the shortfall.”

The recession has already hindered the fundraising ability of nonprofit organizations, which rely largely on grants and private donations to pay for operations.

Laurin Pause, executive director of the Community Resource Center, which holds the Holiday Baskets program at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, said a decision like this is to be expected in these economic times.

“This is just one more cut in a series of funding cuts that all the nonprofits are seeing,” she said, adding that half of the center’s funding comes from cities or private donors. “How do we react? It’s sort of like, ‘Okay, it’s very disappointing but certainly understandable because their monies are also being cut.’”

The center received $5,000 from the supervisors last year for its holiday baskets program, which provides essentials and gifts to families in need. Last year more than 1,600 people were served, Pause said. Solana Beach contributed $5,000 to the gift baskets program last year.

The Solana Beach-based North Coast Repertory Theatre received $25,000 from the board for the production of Little Women, which wrapped up earlier this month.

Managing Director Gaidi Finne said the theater is still financially afloat and raised more money than anticipated at its recent gala fundraiser. He said there would be no show cancellations and that he would like to see what is left to be allocated next year go to organizations that need the money to stay operational.

“We lose a lot, but these little organizations lose even more it seems,” he said.

Keith Padgett, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito, said last year his organization received $35,000 to fix the bathrooms at the Encinitas branch. He said the organization cut $500,000 from its budget last year and has changed its fundraising philosophy to smaller, grass-roots donations.

“It has been a difficult two years, but we’re optimistic here, we’re positive here,” he said, adding that there are no plans to close any facilities.

TERI Inc., a group that serves individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and severe behavioral disorders, received a $50,000 grant to cover construction costs for a home for individuals with serious medical needs.

“The supervisors allowed us to do things we really needed, it’s a big disappointment,” said director of development Laura White, adding that it is especially hard to see the dollars decrease as the numbers increase for individuals that need help and service.

Only supervisor Bill Horn voted against cutting the program. The $5 million saved from the cut will not be allocated until June, when the county conducts budget deliberations. A Slater-Price spokesman said her district alone received $308,000 in requests from 25 nonprofits just last week. While atypically high and the amount requested varies week to week, this would reflect roughly $16 million in requests annually if it was consistent.

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