Augusta, GA (WJBF) – Lawmakers are deciding whether they can use tax-payer money to fund local non-profits of their choice. The whole controversy started about a month ago when Commissioner Sean Frantom asked his colleagues to approve money for animal services. That request lead to a $20,000 windfall for 4 other agencies. Now, some are worried that this could open a Pandora’s Box of government spending.
“There’s no process, there’s no rhyme or reason why we gave these four non-profits $20,000 and that’s not the way we ought to handle the taxpayers’ money,” said Frantom.
But, Commissioner Bill Lockett said the Commission approving donations is nothing new. “This is something that’s been going on for an extended period of time and the list that I provided… All those organizations on there for at least five consecutive years, they have received money for their causes.”
And, what about complaints that the money wasn’t budgeted?
“There were 300 and something senior citizens on a waiting list for Meals on Wheels and, often times, that’s the only good meal of the day. I couldn’t get that done within the budgetary process,” said Lockett.
But, Lockett said, when he saw another Commissioner request $25,000 for the Greater Augusta Arts Council weeks after the budget passed, he saw a way to get Meals on Wheels funding. He doesn’t think this will lead to a Commission spending increase. “It hasn’t in the past and I’ve seen us give money to many different organizations. And as the Finance Director indicated the Commission doesn’t approve giving somebody money and they just get it, it’s a process they have to go through.”
“I just think it needs to be handled during the budget time. As I said on the floor, $2.9 million is given out each year for NGOs, that’s when it needs to be handled…not at the Commission’s discretion, because we have extra money in a contingency fund,” Lockett said.