County Eliminates Art League Funding, Reduces Others

SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Commissioners agreed to cut funding to the Art League of Ocean City and reduce dollars for Furnacetown and the Delmarva Discovery Center in the coming fiscal year.

As the commissioners considered funding requests from various nonprofits in a budget work session Tuesday, they voted to eliminate the grant that has been provided to the Art League of Ocean City in recent years. They also agreed to decrease Furnacetown’s grant to $20,000 and to reduce the Delmarva Discovery Center’s grant to $20,000.

“I think we give away too much money,” Commissioner Jim Bunting said.

The Art League of Ocean City had requested a $20,000 grant from the county for the coming year. Staff, however, pointed out that officials previously agreed to provide the facility with funding for five years. Though that five years came to an end in fiscal year 2017, the county did provide the Art League with $20,000 in fiscal year 2018. Commissioner Joe Mitrecic advocated for the county to continue to fund the nonprofit in fiscal year 2019.

“The Art League of Ocean City does a tremendous amount for students throughout the county…,” he said. “They do a lot of outreach. They have a lot of classes students are involved in. It’s an asset to the county.”

A motion to provide the nonprofit a grant failed, however, with just Mitrecic and Commissioner Bud Church voting in favor of it.

Furnacetown, which was provided with a $30,000 grant last year, was seeking $40,000 for the coming year. When asked how the funding was used, staff said it supported operational expenditures.

Though a motion to provide Furnacetown with $10,000 failed, a motion to provide it with $30,000 also failed. The commissioners finally voted 4-3, with Bunting, Mitrecic and Commissioner Chip Bertino opposed, to give Furnacetown $20,000 in fiscal year 2019.

The commissioners had less trouble coming to agreement regarding a grant for the Delmarva Discovery Center. Bunting said center leaders originally said they needed just five years of funding from the county. Funding requests have continued beyond that however.

“I know what you’re saying,” Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw said, “and I agree to an extent but at the same time this is part of tourism throughout the county.”

The commissioners voted to allot $20,000 to the Discovery Center for fiscal year 2019.

In spite of the cuts to some areas of the budget, the commissioners did agree to give the Pocomoke Little League $10,000 to help fund a lighting system. The motion to provide funding, which was made by Lockfaw, drew concern from Commissioner Ted Elder. He said that once a request was approved one year, a group was likely to seek funding year after year.

“It’s like feeding a stray cat,” he said. “The next thing you know you’ve got a hundred of them. And the problem also is that they’ll be back. They keep coming back. We’ve seen it with I don’t know how many other of these things … There is a limit to how much you expect the taxpayers to put out.”

Church said Pocomoke wasn’t as wealthy of an area as Ocean City or Berlin.

“They don’t have the resources to fund a lot of these items,” he said.

Bunting said he was opposed to funding any new charitable requests. He said Wicomico County didn’t provide nonprofits with funding.

Commissioner Diana Purnell said people in Pocomoke paid taxes just like those in the rest of the county.

“We neglect Pocomoke in a lot of different ways,” she said.

Lockfaw said that installing the lights would be a one-time project. He added that the facilities in the south end of the county were not up to the standards of those in the northern section of Worcester County.

“When you look at the facilities they’re not as good as some of those up north, but those kids are just as important,” he said. “Like one of the commissioners said the south end of the county pays their share of taxes as well.”

Mitrecic said he based his decisions on nonprofit grant requests on the effort each organization put into fundraising. He agreed with Church’s assertion that the Pocomoke area lacked resources.

“They certainly don’t have the ability to raise the funds in Pocomoke that maybe they do in Berlin for the Berlin Little League,” he said. “Maybe that’s why they need a little help from the county.”

The commissioners voted 4-3 to provide $10,000 to Pocomoke Little League. Bertino, Bunting and Elder were opposed.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.