Leonardtown, MD –The Commissioners of St. Mary’s County unanimously approved Nov. 17 a policy for funding non-profit agencies. Beginning with the upcoming budget cycle, the commissioners will use the Department Model option, one of four options considered during two recent public hearings. The majority of the speakers favored that option.

According to material used by the commissioners in making their decision, “The Department Model would allocate category funding to content-specific department. So, for example, Economic Development would review/score each grant application submitted for Economic Development funding and provide a recommendation to the Commissioners. The Department would determine the funding recommendation based on the identified priorities. It would include monitoring provided by the department.”

The only hitch in the new method was pointed out by several non-profits during the two hearings. They noted that what they did could potentially come under more than one department’s purview. Sotterley Executive Director Nancy Easterling said her historic site could come under Economic Development and Recreation and Parks.

Funding would be decided based on six categories now used for decision making: Social Service, Primary and Secondary Education; Post-Secondary Education; Parks, Recreation and Culture; Conservation of Natural Resources; and Economic Development.

The decision potentially resolves what every year is one of the most contentious budget decisions for the commissioners. Historically the commissioners have provided some funding to non-profit agencies. That list grew over time. But for the past few years the commissioners have level-funded the agencies and not added any new ones. In the current fiscal year the new commissioner board funded $1.3 million to 22 agencies.

Several years ago, with threats of cuts to the agencies, a group called Vital Community Connectors (VCC) was formed to lobby on behalf of the funded groups. Most of the agencies receiving funding from the county joined.

County Administrator Dr. Rebecca Bridgett (shown above) led the effort that concluded with the new policy. The four options were developed in meetings involving Dr. Bridgett, the chief and deputy chief financial officers, and members of VCC and the Non-Profit Institute at the College of Southern Maryland.

One factor leading to the discussion of changes has been the county getting new software from the Governor’s Office for Crime Control and Prevention which can be used by the non-profits to support their funding requests.

Contact Dick Myers at dick.myers@thebaynet.com