Editorial: Governments have priorities and must end donations

It would be one thing if San Benito County’s finances were
stable, if the economy wasn’t a complete wreck, if officials
weren’t facing cutbacks to basic services in the coming years.
It would be one thing if San Benito County’s finances were stable, if the economy wasn’t a complete wreck, if officials weren’t facing cutbacks to basic services in the coming years.

None of those are the case, and it is no longer reasonable to consider taxpayer-funded donations to nonprofit organizations that are not mandated by the state or federal governments.

County supervisors once again received a long list of requests from local nonprofit groups asking for allocations. There were about 80 applications and those were narrowed to the seven selected by the Community Foundation, which has made the recommendations for the past two years. Even with the advice, however, supervisors appeared to dissent about who deserves portions of the $70,700.

It had become a common practice – donating to a given few nonprofit groups – during lush economic times when continual growth was driving consistent revenue increases. Those times are gone and might never return. In the meantime, supervisors by principle should suspend the practice and reallocate those funds toward the general fund in an attempt to prevent layoffs and other cuts to basic services.

It would make such reductions even harder to swallow – if San Benito County continues donating a percentage of property tax revenue each year to these nonprofit groups. So it is time to use responsible discretion with these discretionary dollars.

Supervisors are elected to represent the wishes of their constituents – many of whom are struggling to get by – and make sure core priorities are funded before handing over taxpayers’ money to a subjective list of charities. What is more important: Ensuring the streets are safe, that the potholes are filled – or trying to please a small number of nonprofit groups that simply should find other ways to fill out their budgets?

Local residents, after all, have the choice to donate their hard-earned money to such nonprofit groups. Even if local governments do not donate, the residents still would have that choice. If there is adequate community support, the nonprofit groups will find the money elsewhere. They will get by, just like San Benito County residents.

This habit of governments donating has become a fixture in each budget process. It has become widely expected. Some groups have come to count on the funds.

It has to end. The local governments, frankly, have bigger priorities.

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