SIOUX CITY | A majority of the Woodbury County Board on Tuesday put the Sanford Community Center on watch that it can no longer depend on financial aid from county taxpayers.
Supervisors Jeremy Taylor and Matthew Ung said they like Sanford's programs for at-risk children but said the agency should prepare to start fundraising because it likely won't get any more county money.
Other nonprofit agencies also could see their county funding ended.
"The ship of county government is going to sink under the weight of good intentions," Ung said during debate over whether to resume payments of nearly $140,200 to Sanford.
The county has a longstanding practice of giving money to nonprofit groups each year. The current year's allocation was $285,524, with $186,925 of that to go to Sanford.
The money for Sanford came out of property taxes, while seven other agencies currently receive money from the county's share of gambling revenues.
Payments to Sanford stopped abruptly in October, when County Attorney P.J. Jennings issued a legal opinion that they posed a conflict of interest. George Boykin, a longtime county supervisor unseated by Taylor in the November election, runs Sanford.
The conflict no longer exists with Boykin off the board, but Ung, also elected in November, said state-mandated county functions must come first in a time of tight budgets. He said keeping property taxes down allows taxpayers to donate more of their money to agencies such as Sanford.
Supervisors Jackie Smith and Larry Clausen said Sanford's gang-prevention program has helped improve family life. Smith noted the number of minorities housed in the county jail has dropped in part due to the program.
"It is very short-sighted to stop the funding ... Front-end programming is much less expensive than incarcerations," Smith said.
The Sanford talks were part of a larger discussion scheduled by board Chairman Mark Monson on whether nonprofit groups should be able to apply for and receive county money. The supervisors will decide at their Feb. 10 meeting.
Monson said the supervisors should not let past practices govern present-day decisions. He said if a proposal to help fund the Sanford Center were brought forward now for the first time, he doubted it would be approved. Monson said the county has more important funding needs.
Boykin said Monday that if the county money dries up he may lay off up to four workers and cut the gang-prevention program from 300 pupils to 100.
Three people, including two program employees who have been with the agency for more than 20 years, urged the board to continue the funding.
"We need this program in Woodbury County. I've seen the good in this program," said Fitzgerald Grant, a Sanford employee of 24 years. He described people on track for prison who instead went on to get middle management jobs and earn college degrees.
"I've given my life, and I'm emotional," Grant said, struggling to keep his composure.
Taylor said the jail and other law enforcement functions should take priority over funding nonprofits. He said Sanford officials should look into fundraising.
Smith and Clausen said spending money on prevention programs helps reduce law enforcement and court expenses.
Clausen warned that if Sanford funding is cut off, the "juvenile detention (center) could fill up."