By Alex Bridges
WOODSTOCK - Nonprofit agencies and other groups, some of which have experienced funding cuts in recent years, made pitches for local funding to the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors this week.
The supervisors listened Wednesday during a work session on the 2014 budget as representatives of agencies that serve the county presented information, described their needs and potential cuts in services should they not receive money from the county.
The agencies are asking for $1.24 million in local funds - approximately 10 percent more than the $1.12 million the county allocated in the current fiscal year.
County Administrator Douglas Stanley has recommended in his proposed fiscal 2014 budget that the county increase outside agency funding by roughly 1.2 percent to $1.14 million. But the increase would affect only three agencies. All others would receive the same amount in local funding as allocated in the current budget.
The bulk of the additional money would go to Lord Fairfax Community College. The institution requested $44,004 - a 21.5 percent increase over the current budgeted amount, according to county information.
Other increased requests in local funding come from the local health department and the Northwestern Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Representatives for these groups presented at a previous meeting.
But "level funding" may not be enough for agencies still hurting from cuts in state and federal funding.
Response Inc., a Woodstock-based agency that shelters victims of domestic violence, lost $44,000 in grants, approximately 24 percent of the funding source for the current budget cycle, according to outgoing Executive Director Kristie Wilkin. The agency expects to see a loss of 5 percent each from federal and state sources. The agency has asked the county for $40,000 for fiscal 2014 to curtail further cuts in programs and services.
Wilkin told the board that without Response's services clients may have had to live in their vehicles and likely would lose their children to child protective services or would stay with their abuser.
"They would have been on the street," Wilkin said. "They would have had to go back to a dangerous situation, maybe would have to go to another county to find shelter."
Clients also have credited Response with helping them get their lives back together, Wilkin said.
Apple Valley Mediation Network Inc., represented by Executive Director Edward Wilkins, is asking for $3,000. The organization provides mediation services in the region and helps relieve caseloads in general district and juvenile and domestic relations courts, according to Wilkins.
The agency processed 169 cases in Shenandoah County in 2012 and mediated 70 percent of those, thereby keeping them out of the courts, according to the director. However, that number continues to grow and he estimated the agency has screened approximately 260 cases in the current fiscal year so far.
The agency received approximately $3,000 a year for several fiscal periods to supplement its programs. When the economy soured, the agency budget fell from more than $70,000 to under $40,000 per year, Wilkins said. The agency has received no local money from Shenandoah County for the past two years, he noted. Warren County has funded the agency consistently over the years, according to Wilkins.
"We feel strongly that we should be supported again; that maybe this is the time of the turnaround," Wilkins told the board. "What we're providing is a peaceful alternative for families to solve their problems."
The agency's caseloads have shifted and approximately 40 percent occur in Shenandoah County, according to Wilkins. The director, in a Jan. 10 letter to supervisors, described the agency's financial situation as "precarious."
In response to a question by Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli, Wilkins didn't give a clear answer as to whether the agency has had to turn away clients for lack of funding. But the situation does hinder the agency's abilities to go after cases and encourage people to use their services. Wilkins credited fundraising efforts for keeping the agency running. Wilkins said he would like to expand its restorative justice programs to the Winchester area.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org