Craig's Doors seasonal Homeless Shelter @ First Baptist Church recently added new trailer in back to serve dinners
Over the past four decades, up until 2009, Amherst has probably donated over 2 million in tax dollars to privately run charitable organizations performing valuable social work with the less fortunate citizens in town -- low income residents, the homeless, hungry, cold, etc.
The town redirected Social Service spending to come out of Community Development Block Grant Funding back in 2009. Since that grant is Federal money, the state anti-aid agreement would not apply.
But Amherst did briefly lose its CDBG eligibility last year (for FY15) and Vince O'Connor convinced Town Meeting to once again use regular General Fund tax money ($125,000) to fund the agencies.
Amherst is, to the best of my knowledge, the only municipality in Massachusetts to spend public money on private non-profit charitable agencies. Which of course makes Amherst a "good guy" (or gal).
But is it legal?
Apparently a few people in town think not, and as a result Finance Director Sandy Pooler asked Town Council to look into it.
I asked Sandy if it turns out the naysayers are correct and we should not have been donating the money all these years would the town be forced to ask those agencies to return the funds?
Said Sandy: "That is a good question. I don't know the answer to that. If the lawyers come back with an opinion that we have violated the anti-aid amendment, we will get to that."
Although he does close on a reassuring note: "I do not think there is a violation, but we will see."