In-Depth: More Non-profits Receiving City Funds Under Proposed Budget

May 2, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Lexington’s Urban County Government is in the process of developing a budget for the next fiscal year, and a small portion of city money will go to what are called “partner agencies.”  Brenna Angel reports on a new system officials used this year that’s allowing more non-profit organizations to use the funds.

On weekday evenings, dentists and their assistants are busy with exams and dental cleanings at a small brick building on Lexington’s South Limestone.  It’s home to Mission Lexington, a free dental clinic for low income Fayette County residents.

 “Basically once a patient comes to us, we see them through. We not only make sure they’re pain-free but fully restored,” says executive director Chris Skidmore.

Mission Lexington, which also has a separate medical clinic, is open on weeknights from 6-9 p.m. though the work of a small part-time staff and a network of volunteers.

 “With the current volunteer infrastructure that we have right now, we could see six times the number of patients that we’re currently seeing, but it’s just cost to keep the doors open.”

The Mission Lexington dental clinic waiting list has about 650 names on it.

Skidmore says his organization has a budget of $150,000 made up of donations, church funding, and grants. But Mission Lexington could soon get $25,000 from Lexington Fayette Urban County Government. It’s one 21 social services programs that were approved for funding through the city’s partner agency budget.

In coming up with a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, Lexington’s Social Services Department, at the request of the Urban County Council, developed a new way of determining which non-profits would receive the $1.75 million in funds for partner agencies. In the past, city government got into a routine of just funding the same agencies each year. This time around, independent review committees examined and ranked individual programs.

“We required all agencies to go on, through the Bluegrass Foundation. It’s free, all their financials are uploaded so they can advertise their program and we could have access to all their financial information,” says Social Services Commissioner Beth Mills.

The non-profits also had to give a presentation and show how they would measure program outcomes, which will be reviewed quarterly. One application, from the Bluegrass Regional Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board, was disqualified because the agency did not have a profile on the Good Giving website.   

Mills says the process was competitive, but fair.

“I don’t think there’s an agency that applied that I don’t applaud the work they do. But you also don’t want to preclude start-up agencies. Because sometimes they’re more creative and they’re doing a need that nobody’s thought of.”

Mission Lexington was one of eight non-profits that have never received city funding before that are now included in the partner agency budget proposal. For Chris Skidmore, it means Mission Lexington would be able to help more people get their smiles back.

“I do know how much it means to us and how much it means to our patients. And we would do our best to be good stewards of the funds in this process.”

The budget process still has several weeks of negotiations before it is finalized, but Commissioner Mills says she feels confident the social services partner agency portion of the city’s $289 million budget will pass the council.

The Social Services Department is also reviewing ways it can improve the selection process for the 2014 fiscal year.