Sunday, August 2, 2015

Charity Begins At Home?

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."


Anonymous said...

On law school exams, and then on the bar exam, we'd be presented with a hypothetical factual situation and then be at least partially graded on our ability to do "issue-spotting".

I hope that we're not going to find out that Mr. Pooler is better at this than all of the lawyers serving as Town Counsel over the years....not to mention those of us Town Meeting members with law degrees.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

Will you please name the "few people"?

Larry Kelley said...

Sandy did not say. If they put it in writing then it would be subject to public documents law.

But if it was just verbal, then probably not.

Anonymous said...

Aren't some of these privately owned businesses already getting huge tax breaks from the town? Isn't that double dipping?

Dr. Ed said...

This is the Blaine Amendment and dates back to the 1850's -- was only rewritten in 1917.

Dr. Ed said...

The larger question I ask is why no RFP (Request For Proposals), why this wasn't put out to bid?

Competitive bidding with the bid awarded to the lowest qualified bidder is required when municipalities purchase goods or services -- it insures that the taxpayers get the best deal for their tax dollars. These are services that the town is paying for, there are "sole-source" bidding procedures for situations where only one entity is interested in providing the service, but you have to document that.

What you can not do is just hand money to random entities (or individuals) to do with as they please, which is what is being done here.

Anonymous said...

why doesn't amherst spend that money on permanent housing for 25 people instead of housing them 5 months a year for only part of the day?

Anonymous said...

Will the taxpayers be receiving a tax credit on their account or will the taxpayers be paid by check? When are they going to install the public stocks back on the Town Common? Be a great place for who ever the idiot is who wasted our tax dollars on this illegal donation.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's give the poor bastards all we can afford. ( you wouldn't do that for your stomach. Or your children.