11/07/13 — Commissioners approve $13,500 for organization

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Commissioners approve $13,500 for organization

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 7, 2013 1:46 PM

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The Literacy Connections building on Ash Street.

Wayne County commissioners agreed Tuesday to appropriate an additional $13,500 for Literacy Connections, the county's free adult literacy program.

The amount, combined with a September allocation of $2,000, and $12,000 given by the Goldsboro City Council, will replace the $27,500 that the county chopped from the agency's budget four months ago.

Commissioner Joe Daughtery, who led the earlier budget-cutting campaign, was the only commissioner to vote against the measure.

Literacy Connections Director Pat Yates had appealed to commissioners to reinstate the money to fund one part-time employee and as a match for grants for two Americorps workers.

Commissioners agreed to $2,000 in September, but instructed Mrs. Yates to ask municipalities, particularly Goldsboro, to help with funding.

The City Council two weeks ago appropriated $6,000 and another $6,000 on Monday.

Commissioners had told Mrs. Yates that the county would consider additional funding to make up the $27,500 if she was able to get the city to make a donation.

Daughtery, who has lobbied for Literacy Connections to implement a sliding fee schedule, also told Mrs. Yates to consider a fee schedule as well.

On Tuesday, he renewed his argument that nonprofits should be self-sustaining and not supported by the county.

He said Mrs. Yates had told him no fee could be charged because of its nonprofit status and grant stipulations.

Daughtery asked County Attorney Borden Parker if he had reviewed the agency's grants, bylaws and other documents to determine if fees could be charged.

Parker said he had. He said he did not see any reason why the agency could not charge a fee if that is what the agency's board decided to do.

Commissioner Bill Pate, a member of the Literacy Connections board, said he had told board members he would support the additional funding.

"But I also told them that they need to be moving towards self-sufficiency," he said. "That is just not Literacy, it is all nonprofits. You don't turn a ship on a dime, and you allow people to try to pursue other avenues for funding.

"I was pleasantly surprised that the board is moving in a different direction. They know they have to find funding and that neither county nor the city can maintain funding in the future."

But it takes time to make such a move, he said.

Commissioner John Bell said there are a lot of hurting people in the county.

"The problem that some of us have -- we have had a new bicycle all of our lives," he said. "We don't know what it is to have to beat around the bushes to make things meet."

"Mrs. Yates, the most powerful point she made is, she said this is an investment," Commissioner Chairman Steve Keen said. "It is a little different than a nonprofit. It is an investment in the people of Wayne County."

Comments have been made by some people about the role of government, Keen said.

"The first role of government is that we protect the people that are in our county," he said.

It also is about quality of life, he said.

"I look at other nonprofits," Keen said. "There is one with more than 500 members and they sustain the nonprofit. They also have revenue in a bank account in excess of $350,000 to $400,000. We gave to them. I can't see where this is an issue of the role of government. I know what some are going to say. They will throw me under the bus, but it is reaching across the aisle."

During the public comments portion of the meeting, county Republican Party Chairman Bob Jackson said donating to a nonprofit is a personal choice.

"I don't think we should tax the people of Wayne County to make these contributions," Jackson said.

He also questioned how much it would cost if Literacy Connections were to set a goal of teaching every illiterate person in the county to read.

However, former commissioner Jimmie Ford told Keen he applauded what Keen had said about the literacy program.

The program needs the funds to help the county's citizens, Ford said.

"They can learn to read. Learn to fill out an application and probably get a job," he said. "I say do what you can because sometimes you have to put your heart in it also. Do what you can to look out for the well-being of the citizens of Wayne County."

Commissioner Ray Mayo said nonprofits can often accomplish a mission with less expense than a government agency.

"What we are doing in the long run, in most cases, I am not saying all, but this one particularly, Literacy Connections is saving the taxpayers money.

"The bottom line is that no matter your race, creed or color -- you deserve an opportunity to learn how to read."