Letters to the Editor – Grant Funding

Submitted by David Seal

The time for Jefferson County to invest in a Grant Coordinator is long overdue. While the county does have dedicated public servants within county departments, schools, and non-profits that secure grants, more effort is needed to fully realize grant funding. Neighboring counties and other municipalities in the region receive grant funding from a variety of state, federal, and private foundations. However, Jefferson County has failed to take a pro-active, cohesive, and well organized approach to securing grant funding to enhance county services, despite the justification of  adding a grant expert to the county payroll.

The up-front cost of a full time grant coordinator, based on regional data, would be about $60,000 annually. The opportunity cost of losing available grant funding is easily measured in millions of dollars. Some available grants include a provision to help offset the cost of grant writing, accounting, and compliance, further improving cost justification.  So what is the argument against having a grant coordinator? On two occasions while serving on commission, I proposed the hiring of a grant coordinator. Unfortunately, both proposals were rejected by the majority of commissioners. Commissioner Katy Huffaker (District 1) has consistently supported the effort to improve grant funding for Jefferson County. In fact, it was Commissioner Huffaker that moved a successful action two years ago to reserve $25,000 for matching grant seed money. To date, that reserve has not been utilized for the acquisition of grant funding.

Speaking as a citizen last Monday night at the County Commission Work Session, I made a third attempt to persuade commission to consider a grant guru for the county, especially for non-profits, which Jefferson County has struggled to provide funding for in recent budget cycles. With the new C.A.R.E. Organization taking on the role of animal control on a shoestring budget, 9 fire departments and a Rescue Squad working year-round at fundraising, and The Boys and Girls Club of Dumplin Valley operating on a virtual three year stagnant contribution from the county, there is a solid case to include non-profit funding in the job description of a grant coordinator for this county.

Operating cost for this county is following price inflation just like the cost of operating a household or business. At some point, taxation will be an issue to cover those cost increases, which includes wages and health insurance costs for county employees. If you are a property tax payer, you want to be assured that your county government is doing all it can to supplement the cost of services with grant funding. If you are a county commissioner, do you really want to face your constituents and explain a tax increase if you have failed to fully utilize grant funding for Jefferson County?