Rock County nonprofits rely on donations, grants after county funding eliminated

County administrator looking for alternative funds
Rock County nonprofits rely on donations, grants after county funding eliminated

Funding for four Rock County nonprofits was eliminated in 2018, but the county administrator is trying to find ways to restore some of the funds.

Rock County Administrator Josh Smith said he recommended eliminating the funding for HealthNet of Rock County, United Way Blackhawk Region, Rock Valley Community Programs and NeighborWorks after Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel issued a formal opinion in September stating county boards only have authority to provide funds for services explicitly listed in state statutes .

The Rock County Board of Supervisors approved the 2018 budget in November and asked Smith to come up with options to continue funding the nonprofits. Smith said he’s hoping to have a few possible solutions by February.

“I’m still working with a couple of the nonprofits to get information from them on how we might be able to contract and for what kinds of services,” Smith said.

In the meantime, HealthNet of Rock County is relying on community donations and grant money to make up for the $57,867 it requested from the county for 2018. The money would have been used to offset costs associated with the clinic’s nursing positions, case management positions, patient supplies and rent. HealthNet received the same amount from the county in 2017.

“We are very fortunate to live in a community that has been generous and has kind of picked up the pace since then,” CEO Ian Hedges said. “However, like health care, there is still a lot of challenges that we’re having trouble paying for.”

Hedges said one example is insulin. A box good for one month costs between $400 and $500, he said, but they’re running out.

“We hopefully don’t have to move to a plan B or hopefully don’t have to stop services for anyone, but that has been kind of the recent challenge and something that we’re preparing for,” Hedges said.

The United Way Blackhawk Region had requested $4,000 to fund its 211 information line, which is a 24/7 hotline that provides information to Rock County residents regarding housing, health care, food, mental health and utility assistance.

“We greatly appreciate our partnership with Rock County and hope we may someday soon regain funding and support for this critical service,” said Mary Fanning-Penny, the nonprofit’s president and CEO. “Thanks to the generosity of our community, we’ve been able to secure the funding necessary at this time.”

Rock Valley Community Programs had requested $60,755 for the Alternative Service Program, which arranges community service opportunities for people instead of jail or fines. The county provided the same amount in 2017.

Smith said the county worked out an arrangement between the sheriff’s office and courts to refer the people who would have used the Alternative Service Program to the sheriff’s office Workender program.

Rock Valley Community Programs Executive Director Angel Eggers said the nonprofit was able to reassign the employee who ran the Alternative Service Program.

The nonprofit also requested $12,750 for the Residential Re-Entry Program, which used the funds to buy clothing, medication and bus passes for people in RVCP’s residential program transitioning back into the community after being released from prison. The same amount was also provided in 2017, according to Smith.

Eggers said the program wasn’t really affected by the cut in funding because they’re able to get support elsewhere.

According to the budget, NeighborWorks had requested $1,200 to offset costs of providing a first-time homebuyer program, which was the same amount as 2017.

Executive Director Joy Bosco said the program itself wasn’t impacted, but the organization is no longer able to provide discounts for people who apply for down payment assistance with the county. Before the budget cut, NeighborWorks could discount the $500 fee to $250. Now, homebuyers will have to shell out the full $500.

“We don’t want to have to charge the clients, but that’s how we have to make up the difference,” Bosco said.

Smith said the county’s main focus is to find new funding possibilities for HealthNet and the United Way. He said if the county board approves one of the options, it will likely stay on future budgets.