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Pitco helps struggling nonprofits

Allyn Harvey
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A handful of critical service providers in the nonprofit community ended 2002 with a $158,461 present from Pitkin County taxpayers.

“What the county was nice enough to do was make up for the money we lost when the governor cut the Tony Grampsas grants from the 2002 budget,” said Sandy Swanson, executive director of the Family Visitor Program. The organization received a check for $50,000 from Pitkin County last year.

The Tony Grampsas grant is named for the state legislator who sponsored legislation in the early 1990s to support community nonprofits and agencies that work to reduce teenage crime. The grants also go to groups that intervene on behalf of children who are in a dangerous living situations.

The Glenwood Springs-based Family Visitor Program was slated to receive between $35,000 to $50,000 in Tony Grampsas money until Gov. Bill Owens eliminated all of the grant funds from the budget.

The Family Visitor Program, which sends trained counselors into homes of young and financially struggling families with a pregnant mother or infant, was one of seven nonprofits that split the money.

All of the recipients provide health care, counseling, emergency assistance and youth programs.

The other groups to receive support were the Aspen Counseling Center ($25,000), Columbine Homemakers ($15,000), Community Health Services ($21,000), Mountain Valley Developmental Service ($33,000), Roaring Fork Family Resource Center ($3,461) and YouthZone ($11,000).

Last year, the Family Visitor Program provided education and support services to 565 families between Aspen and Parachute. This year, the program is working to meet the same level of demand with fewer employees and resources.

“We try not to turn anyone away,” Swanson said. “It doesn’t make any sense to put a baby on a waiting list for our services, because by the time they got off the list, they would be too old.”

She said between the state and other donors, the Family Visitor Program has lost more than $125,000 in funding this fiscal year, 21 percent of its $600,000 annual budget.

“We’ve frozen salaries, laid off two full-time positions and cut out two part-time positions,” Swanson said. “We’ve tried to not spend money on anything and just been holding our breath. This helps considerably.”

The money is available because of the property tax increase that voters approved last November. The tax increase, which was supported by an overwhelming majority of voters, will remain in effect for five years. All of the money must be spent on health and human service agencies or community nonprofits. It is capped at $800,000 per year, plus inflation and growth, which equates to about $42 per $1 million in property value.

The checks cut at the end of last week came from a $200,000 portion of the special tax that is being used to make up for some of the funding cuts made by state and federal agencies and private foundations. The money is for 2002; later this year a new round of grants will be considered by a citizen grant review committee.

In a Dec. 27 e-mail to the recipients, Pitkin County Health and Human Services director Nan Sundeen pointed out that the money is a one-time grant, and there is no guarantee that they will receive similar amounts next year. “Next year there may be more competition for the money,” she wrote.

She also emphasized that the money is not to be used to expand services.

“Second,” Sundeen’s e-mail continued, “the Citizen Grant Review Committee was clear in its directive that this money is NOT to be used to expand services. Rather it is to be used to maintain status quo.”

The money that was not allocated this year will likely be needed next year, as cuts by government agencies and private foundations, which are reeling from continued weakness in the stock market, become even larger.

“We’re anticipating that there will be more cuts and more trouble next year,” she said.

[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is aharvey@aspentimes.com]


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