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Council nixes any idea of more Boys and Girls Club funding

A delegation representing the Jackie Robinson Boys and Girls Club, including three young club members, made a pitch to the Cairo City Council for increased city funding, but the council split 3-2 and kept the appropriation for the club at $4,000 in fiscal year 2014-2015.
Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton had put in an appropriation of $25,000 for the Boys and Girls Club and sought the council’s direction to include the increased funding in the city’s spending plan or to keep funding level.
According to Addleton, the $4,000 that has been appropriated in the past covers the utilities for the Holder Park Community Center, which houses the Boys & Girls Club. The city provides the park building and adjoining playground and ball field for use by the club at no charge.
Boys and Girls Club Unit Director Jeff Brown along with members of the club’s board of directors attended Tuesday night’s council meeting to make a push for additional funding. Three young club members also made up a part of the delegation and they shared information about the activities offered by the club and talked about what the club meant to them.
When the club opened in 2009 there were 125 members enrolled, according to Brown, but now that number has jumped to 232 members.
“The club is having an impact in this community. We can see that through our attendance. We are helping keep kids going to school and there are not too many absences by club members,” Brown said.
He added, “the club is making a difference and we thank you for the support you have given us and we hope you will continue to support the Boys and Girls Club.”
During a budget workshop following the regular council meeting Tuesday night the council took up the issue of increased Boys and Girls Club funding.
“I will vote against this budget if there is not a majority that votes to put the $25,000 in the budget,” Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas said.
He went on to state, “I would rather see the Boys and Girls Club get out and get donations like they should do. For us to do this we would be making a donation on behalf of the taxpayers and ratepayers to an organization they may or may not want to make a contribution to.”
Mayor Bobby Burns renewed his opposition to the increased funding for the club. “I have never been in favor of giving public funds to private entities. Taxes are not voluntary. We should not give away tax dollars to any private entity no matter how wonderful a job it is doing. The Boys and Girls Club is a wonderful asset but it is not a Cairo asset. It’s not a city asset and taxes are collected to cover city services. I’m assuming when it was founded its budget was based on contributions from the private sector, but private entities almost always levitate to government for assistance,” the mayor said.
Councilman Kermit Gilliard said that he could not support additional funding for the Boys and Girls Club when the council rejected an appropriation for the Zebulon Theater’s digital conversion fund.
Councilman Douglas warned that the club’s budget for the year appeared to rely on 50 percent of its expenses being paid by two government sources.
“That’s bad for them. I don’t see us funding 20 – 30 – 40 percent of their budget. It takes away the incentive for them to get out and fund raise,” Douglas said.
“I know it’s for the betterment of the kids, there is no question about it, but I voted against giving money to the theater so I would have to vote against this,” Councilman Bobby Gwaltney said.
Both Mayor Pro Tem Lannis Thornton and Councilman Ernest Cloud voiced support for the increased funding and pointed to the positive impact of the club on the youth of the city.
Cloud pointed out the city funds Roddenbery Memorial Library and other things. “I realize it is a tax burden on the citizens and we do pay a lot of taxes, but that’s just part of the system,” Cloud said.
Councilman Gwaltney suggested the club and its board of directors canvass the community for contributions from private individuals and local businesses.
Councilman Cloud criticized the decision to organize the club in partnership with the Marguerite Williams Boys and Girls Club in Thomasville.
“You get more done when you’re independent. The people who got it started did the research and, in my opinion, it was not done properly. You needed to know where the money was coming from and now they don’t have any money and they need the help,” Cloud said.
The veteran city councilman predicted the club would have to cut expenses in order to continue.

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