Nonprofits fear cuts in Murkowski budget

Posted: Sunday, March 09, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Executives with nonprofit groups in the Fairbanks area are concerned about Governor Murkowski's proposal to cut aid to nonprofits.

A similar cut being contemplated by local officials adds to their worries.

The proposed cuts are to block grants, money which the state has historically set aside for Fairbanks and Anchorage to distribute to nonprofit agencies.

''The money from this block grant represents the most efficient way of providing these human services,'' said Taber Rehbaum, a former banker who is executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters Greater Fairbanks Area, one of the beneficiaries of the money. Rehbaum also tracks legislation for the Arctic Alliance for People, an organization of area nonprofits.

''The bottom line is that area nonprofits do work together. We do try to maximize every dollar spent,'' said Rehbaum.

Threats to the Fairbanks block grants-which amounted to about $300,000 from the state last year-are made every year and the money has been decreased in the past. This is the first time in at least eight years that a large cut has been proposed so early in the budget process.

A little more than $150,000 in funding could be eliminated from the upcoming Fairbanks North Star Borough budget, as well.

Last year, 11 nonprofits, including the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Hospice of the Tanana Valley and Fairbanks Native Association, received some of the money. The money helps fund mediation by North Star Youth Court, a methadone clinic at Interior AIDS Association and legal services for the poor through Alaska Legal Services Corp.

The borough adds to the state's grant and allocates the money to area agencies through a citizens' commission.

The grant is half or more of some organizations' budgets, according to Rehbaum.

It's still unclear what the Legislature will do with the proposed cut. Murkowski presented the budget Wednesday and legislators are just beginning their analysis.

Borough Mayor Rhonda Boyles is contemplating eliminating the borough's share of nonprofit money. Rick Solie, presiding officer of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly, sees cutting the borough's contribution to the nonprofits as a way to save the taxpayers some money.

But other municipal leaders are dismayed by the cut. Assemblyman Hank Bartos called the proposed cuts unconscionable and said he plans to sponsor a resolution in favor of funding the nonprofits.

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