New commission, old business

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As Tighe takes office, funding cuts to social-services nonprofits come up again

By Ramsey Scott

The Jefferson County commissioners got down to business for 2013 with a new look but still talking about old business, from board assignments to recent county funding cuts to three nonprofits.

Democratic Commissioner Casey Tighe, who defeated Republican incumbent John Odom in November's election, was sworn into office right before the Jan. 8 meeting along with Commissioner Faye Griffin, who was unopposed in her bid for re-election.

The meeting marked the first time since Nov. 15 that all three elected officials were present and voting.

During the meeting, the commissioners divided up assignments to various organizations and boards in the region.

Tighe asked whether it was common for the commissioners to rotate board appointments. He said he thought it would be best if the commissioners rotated memberships in order to get fresh perspectives on issues.

Tighe brought the point up while the commissioners were discussing who would be the voting member appointed to the Denver Regional Council of Governments. Last year, Commissioner Don Rosier was assigned to that board.

Rosier said he wanted to see through the work DRCOG had been doing over the last two years, and Griffin pointed out that Rosier had been reappointed to several sub-panels within the council, giving him added influence. She also said there is an overabundance of boards and that Tighe would have plenty of opportunity to deal with economic issues.

Tighe agreed to send Rosier back as Jeffco's representative to DRCOG.

Some of the other appointments:

•Tighe will sit on the board for the Jefferson Center for Mental Health; the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee; and Clean Launch, a commission that helps encourage clean-energy business start-ups.

•Rosier will sit on the DRCOG board; the board of the Jeffco Economic Development Corp.; and the C-470 Corridor Commission.

•Griffin will sit on the Child and Youth Leadership Committee, the Rocky Flats Stewardship Council, and the Jeffco Head Start Policy Council.

Cut to nonprofits

While the new commission’s first meeting primarily dealt with who would serve on which boards and organizations, the recent controversial funding cuts to three social-services nonprofits in the 2013 budget came up again.

"I know there were a lot of concerns expressed over the budget that was just passed. I know it was a difficult decision. I know the board arrived at the best decision it could make at the time," Tighe said. "If there's any way we can find a way to look at those budget numbers again and find a way to maybe restore some of those cuts, if that's possible, I'd like to be open to that kind of suggestion. I know it was not a decision that was arrived at lightly."

Tighe's comments spurred a discussion about why those three nonprofits —the Seniors’Resource Center, Family Tree and the Jefferson Center for Mental Health —benefit from county funds.

Rosier posed a question: While two of the nonprofits originated from county offices, and all three had been receiving funding for longer than anyone could remember, why aren’t other nonprofits getting county funds?

"Why identifying those three nonprofits and no other nonprofits?" Rosier asked. "We have numerous nonprofits in the county. The (Jeffco) Action Center —they do a great job. They are not a line item under the general fund or human services."

Rosier went on to name an air quality organization and the League of Women Voters as nonprofits in the county that aren’t line items in the county's budget.

Tighe said the three social-services agencies receiving county funds originated as part of county government, and pointed out that they are providing services to Jeffco residents.

"We've made a kind of a commitment that we’re going to not have it be done in-house," Tighe said. "Providing services of Jefferson County is an important governmental function. And when we have tough economic times, it's counterintuitive, but a lot of the services …people use and need them during tough times."

The commissioners agreed to look into creating an application process for nonprofits that serve the community to ask for county dollars.

During the discussion, Rosier also asked if the three nonprofits could dip into their reserves. Several local legislators have asked Jeffco to tap into its own reserves to help restore the cuts, a move Rosier said would be financially irresponsible.

He pointed to the Jefferson Center for Mental Health, which he said has $10 million in reserves.

"To me, financially, I have a hard time burning our reserves and cutting programs through human services that are beneficial that are not funded or financed any other way to have an organization put millions of dollars into reserves," Rosier said.

The Seniors' Resource Center, which suffered a $440,000 funding cut in the county’s 2013 budget, says it does not have reserve funds.

"Seniors' Resource Center does not have a set-aside reserve that we have access to, to fill our annual operating budget," said Bob Timm, the SRC's vice president for development.

The agency does have an endowment of about $500,000, which can’t be used to directly finance programs.

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.