Should Our Local Government Be Asked To Fund Nonprofits?

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On Friday night, Fireside Espresso was packed to standing room only with people gathered to support the Payson Humane Society.

On Saturday, Feb. 17, a similar outpouring of people will gather in support of the Payson Public Library.

This is a town that takes care of its own, financially or otherwise.

But when those same organizations go to the Town for money, what is the obligation of our local government to fund nonprofit groups?

The current administration is looking at cutting the budget wherever it can find a little fat. The town newsletter was cut last year to save the more than $20,000 it cost to produce. The newspaper picked up the slack by publishing a free, monthly Payson page.

Other "luxury" items were cut from the Town budget, such as the annual town employee Christmas party.

In the mayor's January State of the Town address, he hinted that there were more cuts on the way.

And as the purse strings tighten further, we have to ask ourselves what role government should play in a small town and where should our taxpayer dollars be spent?

Traditionally, the Town of Payson has funded the Payson Senior Center and the Payson Humane Society for services that are normally provided by a municipality -- transportation for seniors and the animal shelter.

Economically, this arrangement makes sense.

But the Humane Society would like the town to take the arrangement a step further. The animal shelter is falling down around the heads of the dogs and cats it houses. There is need for repair and soon, there will be a need for a complete rebuild of the facility.

After the mayor's State of the Town address, the Roundup asked him if he believed the town should pay for the new facility.

He said the people of the town, not the government, should reach into their pockets for this effort.

Payson is not a wealthy town.

Because we have a limited budget, we must weigh our priorities.

By its definition, the Town is obligated to provide basic services -- fire, police, streets and infrastructure.

If there is money left over after those things, where should the tentacles of the town spread from there? To answer that question, we must measure the return of each dollar spent for the community as a whole.

Just as a family budgets a limited income, we pay for the basics and the frills when we can afford them. The difficulty comes when we are asked to define necessities and frills.

When an organization holds out its hand for town funding, we must ask if that organization gives back equal to what it receives.

Any organization that asks for money should prove by an outside audit that it will cost the town less to fund them than if the town had to provide the service itself.

In other communities, the town or the county owns the shelter -- funds it, staffs it and maintains it. By serving as its own nonprofit organization, our local Humane Society already saves the town money and it has proven itself to be a good investment by keeping countless stray dogs and cats off the streets.

If the town government is going to invest, we believe the Humane Society is a wise investment.

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