From now on, private organizations that want an assist for their good causes may no longer count on help from Volusia County.
With an eye toward saving money in uncertain times, the County Council on March 7 voted unanimously to stop giving funding — known as event sponsorships — from the public coffers for charities and other nonprofit civic groups. The council’s action was pre-emptive; it set the stage for denying tax dollars for the fundraising efforts of five tax-exempt groups.
“I don’t dislike any of these. I think they are all good programs … but I don’t think it’s the council’s job to give away taxpayers’ money,” County Chair Jeff Brower said. “I think we’re going to be under great pressure this year to raise taxes. I don’t want to raise taxes.”
Brower was not alone in raising concerns about the requests for funding that have often come before the County Council. Such requests have become routine items of business. In the recent past, council members questioned the calls for county sponsorships of events, including dinners, contests, walks or runs, or public celebrations, but usually went along with allocating public money for charitable causes.
The standard amount of money per sponsorship was $1,500. The county’s annual budget for fiscal year 2022-23 set aside a total of $40,500 for event sponsorships.
Volusia County Community Information Director Kevin Captain noted the sponsorship policy applied to organizations that “are a 501(c)(3)” [under the federal tax code], and that “have not received money from the [county’s] general fund.”
“Government is only supposed to do what we cannot do ourselves,” Council Member at Large Jake Johansson said. “It’s not our money; it’s taxpayers’ money.”
Johansson added individuals should decide whether particular organizations deserve their donations.
The organizations requesting funds, and subsequently turned down, were the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, sponsoring the Out of Darkness Community Walk set for Sept. 10; the Kappa Alpha Psi Guideright Development Foundation, sponsoring the Kappa Derby set for May 6; the Rotary Club of DeBary, Deltona and Orange City, sponsoring its seventh annual 5K-10K River Run set for April 15; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, sponsoring the 18th Annual Blue & Gold Gala set for April 14; and the Everybody Is Somebody Inc.’s sponsorship of the Orange City Multicultural Festival set for Feb. 25.
“If I believe in something, I’m going to write a check,” Johansson said.
Another freshman council member, David Santiago, spoke in a similar vein regarding any such group’s request for county aid.
“You either believe in it or you don’t,” he said. “I don’t believe in it.”
Santiago urged his colleagues to “take a stance now,” and reject the pending appeals for county cash.
“I think we should stick to our belief — nothing personal,” Santiago concluded.
“They’re all excellent organizations,” freshman Council Member Troy Kent said. “For me, I’m a hard no on this. … It’s not the place of government to take your tax dollars and give them money.”
While agreeing in principle with his colleagues who philosophically opposed giving public money to private nonprofits, County Council Vice Chair Danny Robins recommended honoring the requests then at hand, but then terminating the policy “tomorrow.”
“Approve what’s in … right now,” he said.
Robins’ motion failed with four votes against and three in favor.
A subsequent motion by Santiago to scrap the sponsorship policy immediately won with a 7-0 vote.
Captain recalled the county had given $1,500 for one sponsorship earlier this year. That contribution went to Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1048 for a fundraising golf tournament.
Amy Munizzi, president of the DeLeon Springs Community Association, lamented the demise of the sponsorships, noting the county has given past support to her organization for a traditional fall festival.
“We’re doing what you are not doing in our community,” she told the council. “We feel it’s a partnership.”
This is long overdue, I applaud members of the County Council for ending this practice. Charitable giving should be a choice we make on our own and it should be based on our ability to give and it should not be forced upon us by any government overlords. When I say force I mean force because if you do not pay your property taxes you will lose your home, business, and your property. As it stands today, young couples buying their first home in Volusia County are paying the equivalent of $300 to $500 a month in property taxes alone and that is at a time when they are just getting started and struggling to make it. In most cases when we are first starting out we struggle and we tend to be less able to donate to charities and as we get older we tend to be more able to give. We don’t need any more government overreach and to those who may approve and who may push the government to make our charitable giving decisions for us I would ask that you please stop, I do not tell you what organizations you should or shouldn’t give to and I would ask that you show me and others the same respect. Asking the government to take from your neighbor’s family’s finances when you do not know the struggles your neighbor may be going through is horribly wrong. Let us not forget the proverb…. Charity begins at home…. One’s first responsibility is for the needs of one’s own family. We should also remember, renters also pay property taxes as part of their monthly rental fees. We need a strong UnitedWay again here in Volusia County that would give us a central source to receive and distribute our charitable gifts after proper vetting of the receiving organizations.
I wonder if they will continue to waive tolls for the old car show and those other costs they waive. No different than this 40K sponsorship program that help to lift small NFPs up to do good things in their community.
Pat- this is such a small investment to support non-profits across the county. This kind of support allows NPs to do the work and have an impact on programs that the county can’t or doesn’t do, but are much needed. Short sighted at best, political theatre at its worst.—JR