Funding match delayed

Published 8:14 am Monday, March 4, 2013

JACKSON – The decision as to whether or not Northampton County will help with a grant match for a Teen Court program has been pushed back again.

Last week, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners decided by consensus to push back their decision whether or not to participate in helping with a match for a Governor’s Crime Commission grant that is funding the program.

Walter Smith, Executive Director of the Northeastern Economic Empowerment Corporation (NEEC), appeared before the board to request the funding in the amount of $6,181 from the county.

According to information provided by Smith to the board, NEEC has provided cash matching funds in the amount of $8,183. The total match required is $20,545.

NEEC has already implemented the program which allows teens who have committed a delinquent act, minor offense or have been charged with a misdemeanor to be tried in a court structure where the defendant is tried and judged by their peers.

The program has already been implemented in Hertford and Northampton counties. Thirty students have since received over 40 hours of training as prosecutors, defense attorneys, jurors, court clerk and bailiff and have also been educated in privacy/confidentiality laws, court procedures and investigative strategies.

Smith appeared before the board in August with a funding request for the same program.

While the board citied the need for the program, they also voiced their displeasure with Smith not coming before them to request the funding prior to NEEC applying for the grant.

“When you made the application for this particular grant, did it occur to you that possibly you might want to come to each of the counties and get their okay on it before you proceeded,” Commission Vice Chair Virginia Spruill asked.

“When we applied we had absolutely no idea whether it would be funded or not,” Smith responded.

He added the corporation didn’t even know the match amount at the time of application due to different categories in the grant.

Spruill noted the fact that in the past when groups were seeking to apply for a grant they would come before the board to ask for their support in the application.

“We at the same time don’t know what you’re going to get, but at least we go on record supporting you in that point and time,” she said. “I don’t recall you all coming before us.”

“We didn’t,” Smith responded.

Spruill questioned how much of the match Hertford County had committed.

Smith said they had not committed any funds, but he was meeting with the board that night during their regular session.

Commission Chair Robert Carter also voiced his displeasure over NEEC not making the county aware of its intention to apply for the grant.

He noted a previous grant in which NEEC had made application and followed proper procedure with the county.

“This time you probably surmised Northampton is going to take care of us anyways,” Carter said. “For that reason I am very, very disturbed by the action that you took.”

Carter questioned County Manager Wayne Jenkins and Finance Officer Dot Vick to see if the funds could be located.

“But from what I have seen from our restraints I don’t think it’s possible,” Carter added.

Jenkins said the only source of revenue available for the match would be the current year general fund contingency line item.

“If you recall the contingency line item has always been a fall back position for you in the last four months of the budget year when you have cost overruns in a department or your revenue projections are under,” Jenkins said.

Vick agreed the funds could only come from the general fund contingency line item.

Spruill questioned how much was in contingency.

“We haven’t hit contingency but once this year, but that is how it usually runs,” Vick said. “We’ve spent about $4,600, $4,700 out of contingency, but the last half of the year is when you hit contingency.”

Vick added there was approximately $95,000 in contingency.

Smith added the $6,181 was the maximum figure needed from the county.

“We do the math every month so we will know monthly what the match is,” he said.

Commissioner Fannie Greene said she agreed with Carter’s comments regarding the process.

“Although I think that the Teen Court is a good program, I felt we’ve needed it for a while; I think it’s good to try it with our young people,” she said.

Smith added that the program is up and running with training already being conducted.

“We’re ready to take cases at this point,” he said.

He noted the grant was a year by year basis and NEEC would be reapplying for the same grant and the corporation would like to begin that process with the county.

Commissioner Joe Barrett questioned if the county elected not to fund the match if it would affect the program being implemented in Northampton.

Smith said it would not and the program was already started in both counties.

“We’re not going to abandon Northampton County, we would just have to make some very major budgetary adjustments,” he said.

After further discussion, Carter questioned if June 1 would be too late for the board to move on the matter if the funds were available at the time.

“No, it can be paid at anytime prior to June 30,” Smith responded.

Jenkins recommended the board delay their decision and revisit it during the month of June when Vick would have a good handle on whether or not funds would remain in the contingency line item.

Jenkins also suggested Smith send a letter of request for funding to be considered to be included in the upcoming 2013-14 budget and the county would need that letter before April 2.

“Receiving the letter only guarantees consideration, not funding,” he added.

The board agreed by consensus to revisit the matter in June.

Note: The Hertford County Commissioners, at their Feb. 18 meeting, tabled Smith’s request for a $6,181 match in an effort to gain additional information.