In 2011, a mini-furor greeted a proposed reduction in city government funding to outside agencies such as the library and rescue squad.
With that fresh in their minds, Mount Airy officials aren’t going there this year.
“I think we need to maintain it at the level (of) last year,” Commissioner Steve Yokeley said during a meeting Thursday when the municipality’s special appropriations to the agencies were discussed.
This is an annual consideration for city government, which is asked to provide financial support to organizations including the Surry Arts Council, Greater Mount Airy Rescue Squad, Mount Airy Museum of Regional History and the Northwest Regional Library system.
The latter entity operates the Mount Airy Public Library, which some citizens mistakenly believe is under the city government umbrella.
Collectively, those organizations are seeking $222,650 in funding from Mount Airy for the 2012-2013 fiscal year that begins on July 1. Each is requesting the same level of funding as last year except for the rescue squad, which is asking for $22,500 — up 350 percent from the $5,000 it was allocated for the present fiscal year.
An extra $1,000 is being sought by regional library officials above the $101,650 appropriated this year for the local library.
Meanwhile, $87,500 is requested by the Arts Council and $10,000 by the museum. Altogether, the four agencies received $204,150 from the city for this year.
“There were a lot of comments last year about reductions, especially the reductions to the library,” Yokeley added Thursday during a meeting of the city Finance Committee, which includes him and Jon Cawley, a fellow councilman.
In 2011, Cawley and then-Commissioner Todd Harris — who made up the Finance Committee at that time — backed a 10-percent cut to all four agencies in an attempt to lessen the funding burden of municipal government in a tight economy. That proposal was roundly opposed by library officials and supporters, who urged city leaders to reconsider the reduction during a public hearing on the city budget.
The full board of commissioners agreed to do so, and there is no support for a similar proposal this year, from either Cawley or Yokeley.
Although no cuts in the special appropriations are desired this year, it remains to be seen if this will actually occur due to uncertainties surrounding the city’s budget overall.
City Manager Barbara Jones, who attended Thursday’s committee meeting, said the existing level of funding for the outside agencies will be maintained “if at all possible.”
“We’re still in the budget process,” Jones explained. “But that is the goal, if possible.”
Jones said Thursday that she will finalize the proposed budget around the middle of May, which will include the recommended allocation to the outside agencies in the context of the entire spending plan for the next fiscal year.
Squad Makes Case
Each of the agencies requesting municipal funding has submitted supporting documentation for their funding requests.
In the case of the rescue squad, the additional money it’s seeking reflects anticipated equipment-related and operating expenses, according to Chad Hutchens, the squad’s chief.
“We have increased our request (to the city) to help offset the drastic rise in fuel costs, and expected drop in community donations due to the economic conditions of our community and nation,” Hutchens added.
“With the increase in inflation and daily cost of operating, we must have additional support from the municipality to continue to provide a service that the city of Mount Airy cannot afford to provide for their citizens.”
If the city government were to launch its own rescue service to handle the same responsibilities of the existing squad, this would require $750,000 in initial start-up costs and $500,000 per year to maintain the operation afterward, according to Hutchens.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.