While Tooele County Commissioners continue discussing more cuts to their 2013 budget, two county employees aren’t waiting around for bad news about their departments.
Tooele County Relief Services Director Karen Kuipers, and Tooele County Food Bank Director Lori Trujillo, have prepared a plan to provide for continuation of their departments’ services — even if the county budget ax falls on their programs.
“I have been told by a commissioner that it would be prudent for relief services and the food bank to look for another mechanism to support us,” said Kuipers at a Monday meeting of the Tooele Valley Rotary Club. “I can see the handwriting on the wall. The county has a budget crisis and must pull back services, and we aren’t considered a core essential service.”
The service provided by relief services and the food bank is vital to the community’s ability to be self-reliant, she added. In the last 45 days relief services has provided assistance to 226 families from Tooele County while the food bank helps an average of 600 families a month.
And according to Trujillo, the demand for services may be increasing.
“I had a phone call from Dugway Proving Ground to let me know that if the sequestration happens, a lot of their employees will have their pay cut, and as a result, they will need our services,” she said.
Commissioner Shawn Milne confirmed that relief services and food bank budgets are under review.
“All budgets are on the table,” he said. “We have to give priority to those services that we are legally required to provide. In the past the county had money coming in that allowed the county to provide services that were above the state average for county services. We no longer have that money coming in and can no longer afford the present level of services.”
While no decision has been made on the fate of relief services and the food bank, Kuipers and Trujillo unveiled their proposed plan to continue serving financially-strapped county families at the rotary club meeting.
Kuipers and Trujillo propose the formation of a new non-profit organization that will take over the operation of relief services and the food bank.
The new organization will consist of representatives from a broad spectrum of the community and administer the two programs using grant money and local donations, according to Kuipers.
The 2013 county budget contains $385,000 in expenses for relief services, the food bank, social services and indigent housing. Those expenses are offset by $176,000 in grant revenue, leaving a balance of $209,000 that will have to be raised by the new organization.
Kuipers’ plan hinges on the county allowing the new organization to use current facilities rent free. The organization will pay for utilities and maintenance, however.
The Community Resource Center building at 38 S. Main houses both relief services and the food bank. The building was purchased by the county in part with Community Block Grant money for social service use.
The county also owns the transitional housing facility on East Vine Street. The transitional housing facility was purchased with grant money for use as transitional housing.
“If we can use the existing facilities, the new organization could raise money from grants and local donations to cover the costs of providing services,” said Kuipers.
The rotary club voted Monday to form a three-member exploratory committee to examine the process of establishing a new non-profit organization to continue relief services and the food bank.
“We understand the position of the county with their budget problems, but the county still needs these services,” said Dennis Hullinger, president of Tooele Valley Rotary. “We want to make this a broad-based community movement.”