BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission discussed the process they undergo when an outside entity requests funding from the county at their most recent meeting.
Upshur County Commission President Kristie Tenney addressed community members Heather Schneider and Abigail Wiernik during their May 4 meeting. Wiernik had previously reached out to Tenney to ask how requests from outside entities for funding allocations are evaluated, and during Thursday’s meeting, Tenney outlined how that process works.
“Typically, we receive funding requests throughout the year and before the budget season, and those requests will come in many different forms — sometimes through email, or they’ll reach out to the commission office or one of the commissioners, and we’ll ask them to put that on the request form during the budget season, which just took place in March,” Tenney said.
“Then we often get requests throughout the whole year as well,” she added. “When we go through that budget process, we look at our facilities, the employees and those things first, and then at the very end of that budget process and meetings, which are public meetings, we will look at those requests that are made through different nonprofit organizations that come forward.”
Tenney said typically, the commission is unable to fund a quarter of these requests because they do not have enough funds in their budget.
“I don’t know if we received our jail bill for April, but in March, I believe it was $69,941.19 or something along those lines, so it’s very difficult to fund nonprofit and outside agencies above and beyond our facilities, our employees [salaries] and our jail bill,” Tenney said. “A lot of times, organizations will come in and want to do presentations, and during these presentations, from time to time, they will ask for funding, and we aren’t always aware that those requests will come in during that presentation or not.”
Tenney said these presentations are also used to raise awareness about various organizations or programs and how they are working within the community.
“Typically, we ask requests for funds to wait until budget season, but again, that budget season just concluded, and I’m not going to say it never happens because sometimes it does,” Tenney said. “Region VII [Planning & Development Council] had something outside of the budget season, and they came here a couple of months ago, and it was something out of the ordinary. They asked if counties could contribute and we were able to fulfill that small request on their behalf, so it does occasionally happen outside of the budget season.”
She said the commission must prioritize the county’s needs, its employees and facilities above anything else.
“As a commission, being stewards of the taxpayers’ money, you look at what your facilities need, you look at your employees and how can we serve the citizens, and then what is left to be able to contribute, and there just isn’t a lot to do with that,” Tenney said.
Upshur County Commissioner Sam Nolte said over 20 percent of the property and personal taxes the county receives is dedicated to the jail bill.
“Every county has a responsibility to do that, and it’s only going to go up a little bit because they changed the way the per diem is being figured out, and to some, it may be helpful, but it doesn’t look that way for us,” Nolte said. “If people want to speak to us, we allow them to and frankly, what they say or ask is completely out of our control.”
Nolte used a recent request they received from JC Films Studios as an example.
“I know their request made the front page of both papers and probably got some good publicity for what they’re doing,” Nolte said. “We talked about it, but it doesn’t mean that’s the action we will be taking for sure.”
Tenney said that following JC Films Studios’ presentation the previous week, the commission found out their funding request was better suited for the Upshur County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“A lot of that is done through the CVB to help bring in tourism – and again, our CVB isn’t flush with cash – so I say that to you, but I would hate for all of these nonprofits to run down to the CVB after that statement because they’re not going to be able to sustain requests of that magnitude either,” Tenney said.
Wiernik said when she saw the request from JC Films Studios, it spurred her to want to learn more about requesting funds from the commissioners.
“I build large budgets for government grants for an NGO, so when I saw this request come through, I thought it was unusual, knowing the county has a lot of responsibilities, but that doesn’t feel like that was one of them, so that piqued my curiosity as a budget builder,” Wiernik said.
“I know what I can get in my budgets, and I know what I’m allowed to authorize and what the rules and regulations are, and I thought this was an interesting aspect, so I thought I would look into it further,” she added. “I just couldn’t find any more information about it, so it made me curious about how much the county does donate to other organizations and nonprofits.”
You can read about the outside entities the Upshur County Commission typically funds in this 2023-2024 fiscal year budget article.