All the small things

Imagine a place where not-for-profits, etc. lost a bulk of their funding from county government.

Then imagine the same county government imposing a stiff across the board fee on
not-for-profits that want to have a food stand at an event.

Imagine ERIE COUNTY!

Donn Esmonde wrote a column today about Rhoda Zucker
and the Aurora Women's Club.  Their efforts in helping out the community
are being punished in a way that can only happen in Erie County.  The
aftershock of a reckless effort by the county legislature to cut spending and
add fees last year.

In its frenzy to find budget money, the county
Legislature slapped Rhoda Zucker's helping hand, locked the Aurora Women's
Club's donation box and shut down a slew of good works of countless other
do-gooders. With a stroke of its pen, the Legislature may have knocked every
small, non-profit group out of the fund-raising business.

Along with county budget cuts this year came new fees from Joel
Giambra and
the 15 legislators. Everybody knew about paying more to play golf or to launch
a boat. Folks didn't know that women's clubs and church groups would also take
it on the chin. The Rhoda Zuckers now have to pay for the privilege of helping
out.

This is where the story gets ridiculous.

The cookie dough was nearly in the oven
last week when Zucker
got the bad news. This year, every non-profit group with a food stand at public
events owes a fee to the county Health Department. Before the first cookie is
sold, the Aurora Women's Club is $106 in the fee hole.

"We'd have to sell [more than] 200 bags of cookies just to get even," said
Zucker,
sitting in her living room on a recent afternoon. "If it rains or we have a bad
day, we may end up losing money."

The $106 fee may not mean much to a Kiwanis Club raising $5,000 at a chicken
barbecue. But it is the difference between pitching in or packing it in for
women's clubs, scout troops and church bake sale volunteers.

It is a classic Catch-22. The county cut funds to
culturals,
to libraries, to parks, to seniors. It said that folks – what people in
government call "the private sector" – would have to pick up the slack. Fair
enough.

What isn't fair is slicing services, then charging a fee to fund raisers who are
trying to fill the gap. I suspect many small volunteer groups can't foot the
bill. Which means the library and food pantry and Mercy Flight won't be getting
the extra dollars.

Didn't I say ridiculous?

It makes you wonder what else was created as part of the county budget crisis
last year?  It also makes you wonder if the legislature caused irreparable
damage to many of the simple things we take for granted.  Simple things
like people getting involved in their communities in a small way to make a
difference.  The problem is that all of the small things add up.
 

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