The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners took action on funding requests from external organizations following a preliminary budget hearing on Tuesday.
With a predicted amount of about $266,031 from revenue after expenses to disburse to external organizations going into the 2011-12 fiscal year, commissioners approved $246,455.38 in funding for outside agencies, achieving a balanced preliminary budget for the first time in Tom Stewart’s 13 years as county manager.
Stewart commended the commissioners for their work on balancing the budget, calling their recommendations on external agency spending, including cuts to some organizations that in years past received their requested allotment, “courageous.”
“The county commissioners did a tremendous job,” he said, adding that the process “wasn’t easy, because there are going to be some organizations left out, but I’m sure the people of Lincoln County are going to appreciate it.”
A final budget proposal will be sent to county commissioners for a vote on May 19. If approved, the budget will then be submitted for review to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration on June 1. A final decision on the budget is expected to come in July.
Representatives from 21 outside agencies argued their case in front of the four present members of the board (Commissioner Tom Battin was absent due to medical reasons), requesting a total of $354,581.46.
Twelve of the agencies were approved for funding recommendations, either for all of their requested financial support or a partial amount.
The Lincoln County Food Bank wasn’t one of them, despite a heartfelt plea from a couple of their board members that elicited dismay and outrage from at least one commissioner.
The food bank, based out of the First Baptist Church of Ruidoso Downs, requested $10,000 – just as it had and received each of the past two fiscal years – to help offset “an increase in food, gasoline and utility prices,” according to a letter submitted on March 31 from the organization to Stewart.
According to Chris Carusona, vice president of the board for the food bank, most of the funding for the organization comes from donations from individuals and businesses. However, they said, with current economic conditions across the country, most of those donations have either decreased or stopped.
Sue Alborn, secretary of the board for the food bank, said that the organization serves on average about 43 families per day but limits the of food disbursement to one box per person each month. According to the volunteers, the food bank serves about 7,500 each year.
“Oh … my … god,” said Commissioner Jackie Powell, expressing shock regarding the number of individuals who are served by the Lincoln County Food bank. “With a county of about 20,000 people, that’s not right.”
Also denied complete funding was the Lincoln County Transit District, which requested $28,874.08 for a proposed new routes and service for Capitan, Hondo and other parts of Lincoln County where the residents currently don’t have access to public transit, according to LCTD manager Patsy DeSoto.
DeSoto cited an instance where a student attending ENMU-Ruidoso relied on public transportation to commute to the school and his place of employment. “He is now a productive member of the workforce,” she said.
Other organizations not approved for funding by county commissioners: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern New Mexico, which had sought $7,500; Sacramento Village, which had sought $2,500; White Mountain Search and Rescue, which had sought $3,394; Partnership for Animal Welfare (P.A.W.), which had sought $13,000; Miracle PAWs, which had sought $5,000; Lincoln County Community Health Council, which had sought $8,000; and Community Youth Warehouse, which had sought $10,000.
Organizations receiving their total requested amount: New Mexico State University Co-operative Extension, approved for $63,400.38; Lincoln County Juvenile Justice Board, approved for $8,000; Southeastern New Mexico Economic Development District, approved for $6,000; USDA Predator Control, approved for $88,500 ($57,137 of which is supplemented by Farm and Range Improvement Fund and Lincoln Predatory Board); Noxious Weeds Program, which in the past had been funded fully by Forest III money, approved for $50,000; South Central Mountain Resource Conservation and Development, approved for $7,000; Lincoln County Humane Society, approved for $30,000; and New Mexico Book Mobile, approved $1,050.
Organizations receiving a partial amount of their requested funding: the Capitan Public Library, which asked for $12,000 and was approved for $3,000; the Corona Public Library, which asked for $7,500 and was approved for $3,000; the Ruidoso Public Library, which asked for $25,000 and was approved for $15,000; and Ecoservants, which asked for $25,000 and was approved for $20,000.