Towns Asking Nonprofits to Help Cover Deficits

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January 12, 2011; Source: |  As many local governments face deficits they are looking to local nonprofits to contribute some share for their use of common services. Some of these efforts speak volumes to local social capital.

Mount Clemens, Mich. is looking at a $900,000 deficit this year and a $1.5 million deficit for FY 2011-2012. The city estimates that the property held by nonprofits – 40 percent – is having an impact of approximately $1.2 million. This prompted Mayor Barb Dempsey to send out letters to 35 nonprofits in town – including 26 churches and a hospital – to ask them to make voluntary contributions.

The letter was sent Nov. 3 and so far has garnered $4,120 from two churches, a museum and an individual. Dempsey said that her goal had been $10,000 and she is waiting on some other responses from larger institutions but has expressed gratitude to those who have pitched in. “I think they pretty much have said that they are part of this community and that they understand that they are getting services that they aren’t paying for.”

Evidently some of the groups agree. Kim Parr of the Crocker House Museum said that the reason they gave was because they value the services provided. “The board had decided that if the city’s not doing good, how does it benefit us? We need to support the community,” she said.

In Galloway Township, N.J., a similar scene is playing out as Mayor Keith Hartman prepares to ask the nonprofits there for contributions. He was, according to, inspired by a recent voluntary payment of $300,000 for three years from Stockton College, which recently purchased a local resort property and chose to replace, at least for that period, the income the property would have generated for the town.

The Township is facing a deficit of nearly $1.8 million and many town employees are on furlough. Hartman in his public comments said, “We’re not asking for much. Whatever they can afford would be helpful . . . It’s not required, but it is the right thing to do.” Poignantly, the town has not yet been able to send out the letters because it has been dealing with recent snow emergencies.—Ruth McCambridge