Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Non-Profits Offer Essential Services to the County at Bargain Prices

Statement for the Budget Hearing before the Watauga County Commissioners, May 21, 2013, presented by William M. Hutchins, a resident of the Green Valley Community and a member of the Board of Directors of the Green Valley Community Park:

Thank you for hearing me and thank you for the $10,000 grant for the Green Valley Community Park last year.

Speaking only for myself, I do not understand the rationale for allocating in the new budget $15,000 for the Valle Crucis Community Park and $4,000 for the Green Valley Community Park. Both parks serve all the citizens of Watauga County and both are run by 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt non-profits with a board of directors.

The Green Valley Community Park is not an association of teapot-lovers who are begging for public support for a private charity that runs a teapot museum. We are providing a public service more cheaply than the County can.

I think that making a big deal of an organization’s tax status is pointless. We do not, for example, normally ask couples we meet, “Are you married filing jointly or married filing separately.” Both the Valle Crucis Community Park and the Green Valley Community Park are currently part of a private-public partnership to improve the quality of life of citizens of Watauga County and of our visitors, a.k.a. tourists.

Does Watauga County currently operate a park in the Green Valley Community? No. In the Green Valley Community, where does a citizen find: public restrooms, a kid playground, a picnic shelter, a soccer field, a canoe ramp, walking trails including birding trails, and a canoe ramp, open to the public during the season —except at the Green Valley Community Park?

We offer these facilities to the public at far less expense to Watauga County than, say, if the County established a duplicate park, which would, I suggest, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Non-profits like our own are private providers of public services, and we do this more cheaply than the County can, if only because we energize a network of volunteers.

We will not be forced to close. We have no debts and no liens. But we may be forced to curtail our services to the public. The restrooms may be open only on weekends, and the grass of the soccer field, which served the Hispanic Soccer League for the last two years, may be cut less frequently. Alternatively, we could bill the Green Valley School for every school trip to the park, etc.

We are not looking for a handout. We are looking for an active partnership to benefit the citizens of Watauga County.

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