Biloxi Drastically Cuts Donations To Non-Profits Amid Financial Woes

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Tough economic times have forced one coast city to re-evaluate how much money it gives to charity. The Biloxi City Council drastically cut the amount the city donates to non-profits.

Last year, Biloxi officials say the city gave $2.4 million to 55 non-profit agencies, groups and special events. On Tuesday, by a 4 to 3 vote, the council decided reduce that by $725,000.

After Hurricane Katrina, the Salvation Army started to work to get supplies in the hands of those who need them. Soon distribution will come to an end because officials say the disaster money runs out in January.

Major Will Cundiff of the Salvation Army said, "We'll stop our warehousing efforts and stop all of the disaster efforts and go to regular operation mode. We'll have a real deficit ourselves in operational monies."

The Salvation Army requested a $50,000 donation from the city of Biloxi. Representatives from the Salvation Army and other non-profits who asked for donations soon found out the city is having its own financial woes. City leaders say there isn't enough money to give everyone what they want.

"We started our budget session with $60 million in revenue and $74 million of expenses," said Council Member Mike Fitzpatrick. "We're $14 million overspent in our budget right off the bat."

"There's no fair and equitable way to deal with the cut, and we have to do a cut, other than across the board, same percentage," said Biloxi Chief Administrative Officer David Staehling."

Some council members felt each group should be evaluated individually before deciding on cuts.

Ward 5 Councilman Tom Wall said, "I don't think there should be any reductions whatsoever in after school programs."

In the end, the council decided to deny all new donations requests and to cut all the groups that received money last year by 30 percent.

Major Cundiff said because the Salvation Army received $40,000 last year, the cut will give the agency $28,000 for next year. The major and others say they can understand the position the city is in.

"I thank them for whatever assistance we can receive," said Sarah Walker of Visions of Hope, a local non-profit. "I'm always grateful because they don't have to do anything. I commend them. And sometimes you have to do the best with what you have. But if I have to accept this 30 percent cut, trust me, I will be back in six months."

Council members say they'll have another meeting in six months to take a second look at charitable contributions to decide if more can be given. The cuts do not apply to any groups that have contract agreements with the city.