Meals on Wheels funding cut by commissioners

Montgomery County Commissioners Court met for a a regular meeting Aug. 13.

Montgomery County Commissioners Court met for a a regular meeting Aug. 13.

During fiscal year 2019-20 budget talks Aug. 1, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court agreed to begin cutting funding to several area nonprofits, including Meals on Wheels.

Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said while Meals on Wheels is a “great organization,” two of the five commissioners are of the mindset that the way nonprofits are funded from the county needs to change.

“There are a lot of great organizations that serve our citizens every day that we’re not able to provide funding for,” Noack said. “It needs to change. They need to really start looking at where their money is going to come from in the future. It shouldn’t come from the taxpayer always.”

County Judge Mark Keough suggested rather than eliminating funding from Meals on Wheels outright to instead provide half of its funding, a total of $135,000 for six months, and revisit the issue in March to meet and discuss future funding.

However, Summer Day, Montgomery County Meals on Wheels executive director, said the decision is already having an effect on the organization.

“The county identified a need of supporting senior services,” Day said. “They contract with us to provide the service the same way they contract for mental health services and juvenile counseling programs. Most Meals on Wheels use local government funds for support match money.”

According to Day, her branch of Meals on Wheels has been receiving $270,000 annually for at least the past 10 years from the county. Other branches in the Greater Houston area continue to receive local funding.

Meals on Wheels receives funding from private donations and the state of Texas as well, such as grants from the Texas Department of Agriculture. Day said in order to secure state funding, Meals on Wheels has to show a local investment before the grant funding is made available. Private donations do not count as showing interest for state-level funding.

“We have to show them the local government cares enough to support our services and from there, we can use that to secure more funds from state and federal [sources],” Day said.

Noack said in a phone interview the county has worked to decrease the effective tax rate for citizens by about 4% in this year’s budget meetings. He said the county has invested in the organization by providing it with a refurbished food bank building the county acquired.

“We put millions of dollars back in the taxpayers’ hands, and if the taxpayers want their money to go to Meals on Wheels, they’ll send it there,” Noack said. “It’s abhorrent for government to take so much of your money to decide which nonprofits benefit. … That’s not government, that’s socialism.”

In a letter to the commissioners, Day said Meals on Wheels has renovation costs for the building prior to moving in later this fall, including paving a parking lot and increasing walk-in coolers and freezer space.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing for the budget Aug. 13 and will vote to adopt the budget and tax rate Sept. 4.

Vanessa Holt contributed to this report.
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