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October 13, 2013
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Editorial: Let Roseburg council know if funds should go to nonprofits

A difficult policy decision will be presented to the Roseburg City Council Monday night.

The eight male councilors will be asked whether the city should share money it receives from the state — for general purpose use — with local nonprofit groups.

It’s an issue fresh in the minds of councilors since a majority were persuaded to give $20,000 to Casa de Belen, a Roseburg shelter for homeless families and teens, in the current fiscal year.

It was an addition made to the $59.2 million budget after a heart-wrenching lobbying effort by residents of the shelter and Executive Director Penny McCue.

Though the council had awarded the shelter the same amount a year earlier, new City Manager Lance Colley left the contribution out of the budget initially presented to the budget committee and City Council. He said whether the city provides charitable donations needs to be a policy decision, not a budget decision.

Colley was concerned with providing money to outside agencies during a time of declining revenue for the city. He’s noted that 9.5 employees have been cut since 2009 and purchases have been delayed. In addition, some councilors wanted to ensure all nonprofits have a chance to apply for any contributions that might be given.

Both are valid concerns.

Now the council will consider a resolution that would set policy for future requests. The proposal can be viewed on the city’s website, cityofroseburg.org, under city council agendas.

The resolution is written in such a way that it’s doubtful any nonprofits will garner funds from the city in the future. The policy states that contributions will be considered only if budgeted revenues exceed budgeted expenditures.

It’s easy for a city to build a budget that shows all the money that is coming in is set aside for a specific purpose, therefore there’s no extra for charity.

That would be a shame because some nonprofits may provide great benefit to the city. For instance, Roseburg has a growing homeless problem and Casa de Belen provides housing to 50 formerly homeless people for just $12 per day.

The council has plenty of time to ponder whether money spent on nonprofit organizations improves the livability of Roseburg. It has set a goal of putting a policy in place by January.

Because the city received $200,000 this year in state revenue funds, the council may want to alter the proposal’s wording and instead designate a certain portion of that funding for donations. The proposed resolution sets good criteria for determining which organizations are worthy.

This is a discussion where councilors should listen to their constituents, so if you feel strongly about this issue, call the councilor who represents you, or show up at the City Hall council chambers on Monday night to add your thoughts to the debate.

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The News-Review Updated Oct 13, 2013 12:04AM Published Oct 14, 2013 09:59AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.