Slicing up human service funding pie |

Slicing up human service funding pie

Local human service agencies are questioning whether they’re getting their fair share of revenues from a county sales tax.

The answer appears to be that they’ve got some reason to complain, but not as much reason as they think they have.

In 1996, voters approved a three-quarter-cent sales tax for a variety of purposes. Of the revenues, 12.5 percent were to go for public health/human services.

Some of the funding began going to the 4-H and fair, and members of the Human Service Commission, made up of local nonprofits, are questioning whether that was intended.

The question has become ever more important to commission members as more human service agencies have sprung up to vie for funds during a time of economic slowdown.

The answer to the question can be found, for starters, in the ballot language. It indicates that part of the tax will go “for public health and human services … to more adequately serve youth, seniors and other public health and human service needs …”

That certainly wouldn’t seem to exclude 4-H from possible funding, although the fair could be a more debatable point. But the matter is clarified in the Oct. 29, 1996, Glenwood Post. Charles Willman, who helped spearhead the tax, wrote in a column that part of the money would go to area human service nonprofits. But he added, “Further, the (county) commissioners will be able to utilize part of these funds to assist the Extension Office and in turn 4-H and the county fair.”

Still, human service agencies have a legitimate beef. As it turns out, 4-H is getting about $50,000 this year from the tax, and the fair $17,000. Numerous human service agencies are left to compete for the $200,000 that remains. Under that system, the Advocate Safehouse Project, for example, gets about $9,000.

There’s no debating the worth of 4-H and the fair, and little debating their eligibility for funding through the ’96 tax. But it was never intended for them to get an inordinate share of the tax intended for public health/human services. The county commission should revisit how it distributes these funds.

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