2015-05-29 / Front Page

Outside allocations to be scrutinized

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

For years, the Town Council has provided funding to outside organizations that perform services for Scarborough residents.

The recently approved municipal budget included such allocations again, but the council intends to rethink the policy going forward.

For the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, the town will give $50,000 to organizations that provide services to Scarborough residents and request money to help cover expenses.

The number is $29,415 less than what the 14 organizations requested and $10,000 less than what was approved this time last year.

The Town Council’s Finance Committee will decide how that money gets handed out. Despite not knowing the specifics, Town Councilor Peter Hayes said such action by the town is an inappropriate use of taxpayer money.

“I don’t think it is the role of the town council,” Hayes said May 20. “I don’t think municipalities should decide how citizens support charities.”

Although he voted to appropriate the outside allocations, Councilor William Donovan said Hayes’ point was “well taken.”

Town Council Chairman Jessica Holbrook said some of the organizations provide “vitally important” services for town residents.

Organizations requesting funding include: American Red Cross; Maine Behavioral Healthcare; Day One; Family Crisis Center; Home Health Visiting Nurses of Southern Maine; Opportunity Alliance; Project G.R.A.C.E. (Granting Resources and Assistance through Community Efforts); Regional Transportation Program (RTP); Southern Maine Agency on Aging; Visiting Nurses Association’s Home Health and Hospice; Hospice of Southern Maine; Wreaths Across America; Biddeford Free Clinic and Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine.

Holbrook said RTP, for example, services 141 Scarborough residents, bringing them some 182,000 miles to and from doctor visits and errands. Hospice of Southern Maine, which runs the Gosnell Memorial Hospice House on Hunnewell Road, serviced 94 residents and provided bereavement support for 208 families. Opportunity Alliance helped 229 residents through its heating and fuel fund and another 108 through its Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

Leslie Skillin, crisis team manager with Maine Behavioral Healthcare’s Trauma Intervention Program (TIP), told the council her organization provides assistance and support at traumatic events in Scarborough and other communities in the greater Portland area. She said last year TIP aided 160 residents and 71 first responders in the hours after an emergency. The funding from Scarborough, she said, helps the program going.

Town Council Vice Chairman Jean-Marie Caterina said these organizations help the Scarborough residents who are most in need. Scarborough, she said, expends the lowest amount of general assistance aid of any of the 27 member communities in the Greater Portland Council of Governments.

“This is a great investment for the people in our community who need help,” she said.

Over the past few years, the town has required outside agencies to request funding through an application. According to the appropriation guidelines, priority is given to programs that benefit and impact the residents of Scarborough, supply critical food or shelter and provide “prevention and treatment in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence.”

Programs are evaluated based on their benefit to residents, innovative approach and if they avoid duplication of service and “achieve cost effective services as alternative to the town providing the program(s) or service(s).”

The funding, if awarded, cannot be used for capital expenses or be the only source of financial support the organization receives.

The council will be looking to the rules and policies committee, made up of Donovan, Caterina and Hayes, to create a more formalized policy on outside allocations for next budget year.

“We do need some policy as to why we are doing what we are doing with this line item,” Donovan said.

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