Recently, the topic of discussion around the county has been the proposed county budget and the so-called "cuts" being made to non-profit funding. With the rumor mill running rampant, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with the people of Marshall County the facts concerning the proposed budget in an effort to clear up any misconceptions.

First, non-profits do not fall under the umbrella of county government and are separate organizations tasked with their own fundraising. The duty to raise funds for non-profits lies with the non-profit boards and volunteers, not county government. Since 2016, the Fiscal Court has offered competitive grant money to various non-profit organizations in Marshall County through an application process. However, like any other public money, specific grant totals are not guaranteed yearly and non-profits should never rely solely on grant money as a main source for their funding. In last year's county budget, $200,000 total was appropriated in the grant line item for non-profits and the following received funding through this line item:

Marshall County Exceptional Center $5,000

Veterans Support Group $3,000

HOPE Clinic $2,000

Hoop Fest $7,500

Marcella's Kitchen $13,000

Marshall County Senior Citizens (Benton) $92,500

Marshall County Caring Needline $35,000

Ramp Ministries $3,000

WACPAC Utilities $2,500

Hardin Senior Citizens $30,000

Marshall County Arts Commission $3,500

As you can see from the figures, only Marshall County Senior Citizens Center (Benton) relied heavily on the county grant for their funding. As far back as 2016, the Fiscal Court recognized that a few non-profits were relying solely on county funds. In response, a series of meetings were held for the non-profits with fundraising specialists in an effort to learn new ways to fundraise so they would no longer have to rely exclusively on the county grants for their funding.

In the proposed county budget for fiscal year 2019-2020, total grant funding has been reduced to $50,000. Why the reduction? The reduction is in large part to the pension crisis that is gripping local governments all across the state and Marshall County is having to contribute more money (nearly $900,000) to shore up the pension system which has left very little discretionary funds in the budget. Frankfort created the pension mess, but local governments are left to foot the bill. It is very unfortunate to see grant funding reduced, but our number one duty as a fiscal court is to balance the county budget. Unlike Washington D.C., county governments cannot operate on a budget deficit and thankfully so. Being fiscally responsible is not always fun, and is often times unpopular, but our fiscal ship is much better off in the long run if we navigate a path toward financial security.

I am a Christian and I support each of these non-profit organizations and have donated and volunteered on regular basis, so the notion that the fiscal court is "out to get" these organizations is simply untrue. Another misconception is that the "cuts" in non-profit grants is directly tied to the hiring of the new 911 director. This is also untrue. The salary of the 911 director is not tied to the grant line item in the budget, so it had nothing to do with the reduction in grants.

I take my job serving the people of Marshall County very seriously and I do not look at the decisions that come before the fiscal court from a political viewpoint, but from a business perspective. As President Ronald Reagan once said, "the greatest thing the government can do for the people is practice fiscal restraint" and I truly believe the proposed county budget does just that. As always, I want to thank the wonderful people of Marshall County for the opportunity to serve, and if you have any further questions please feel free to contact me anytime.

JUSTIN LAMB

County Commissioner District 1

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