Mountain View Voice

Opinion - March 5, 2010

Nonprofits deserve break on budget

Included in the options city manager Kevin Duggan presented in his first pass at reducing up to $2 million from the coming year's budget was a massive hit on local nonprofit agencies, as well as the possibility that the city's longstanding support of Deer Hollow Farm would be terminated.

There were many other options on the table as well, including a $1.4 million cut in the Police Department, nearly $400,000 from the library and over $100,000 from code enforcement. The laundry list of total cuts went beyond what the City Council will need to find before a budget is adopted sometime in June.

A standing-room-only crowd descended on the council chambers during last week's budget discussion, including a good number who are concerned about the future of Deer Hollow Farm, which could close if the city decides to pull its yearly $110,000 grant.

As the budget talks progress — the next one will be held later this month — the council will have to decide whether to cut off grants the city makes to outside agencies or look inward to reduce the size and scope of city staff. The council could also decide to tap the city's reserves again, a strategy opposed by the city manager.

None of these decisions will come easily, but given the state of the local economy, the council should do everything possible to continue its support to the nonprofit agencies that serve the less fortunate in our community. In the worst case, a total of $272,000 could be taken away from these agencies, during what is arguably the worst economy since the Great Depression. But at a time when donations are down and need is higher than ever, these agencies need more, not less, funding.

The proposed cuts to nonprofits would leave no agency unscathed. he Community Service Agency, which provides food and shelter for persons in need, could lose $33,000 from its senior food program; the Support Network for Battered Women could lose $32,000; the Day Worker Center could lose $10,000; and the Community School of Music and Arts could lose $15,000, plus another $76,000 if the city backs out of a joint powers agency that pays for art and music programs.

As for Deer Hollow, rather than end support for this unique and important demonstration farm, which teaches agricultural lessons to thousands of kids from around the region, the city should seek help from neighboring cities including Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Cupertino to contribute to its upkeep.

In this tough budget year, the city's best course is to trim relatively small amounts from lesser city programs, such as code enforcement, weed abatement, shopping cart/graffiti abatement, tree trimming and the ranger program at Cuesta and Rengstorff parks. None of these reductions would deal a crippling blow — and could help avoid dealing a crippling blow to our essential, and already struggling, local nonprofits.

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