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Commissioners fund ACRI; delay RiverQuarium request

C.W. Grant, chairman of the board of the Albany Civil Rights Institute, answers a question offered by Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell during a pre-briefing before Tuesday’s Albany City Commission meeting. The board voted to give the ACRI a one-year, $50,000 subsidy.

C.W. Grant, chairman of the board of the Albany Civil Rights Institute, answers a question offered by Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell during a pre-briefing before Tuesday’s Albany City Commission meeting. The board voted to give the ACRI a one-year, $50,000 subsidy.

ALBANY, Ga. — Albany City Commissioners voted Tuesday to pass a $110 million fiscal year 2013 budget, but whether that will require a tax hike remains uncertain.

The budget as presented included a recommendation from City Manager James Taylor to raise property taxes for city residents by 1.33 mills. But the fact that the budget was adopted Tuesday night, doesn’t mean that property taxes will go up, he said.

“There will have to be a separate vote on whether to increase the millage,” Taylor said. “The budget contains a recommendation for a millage increase, but they haven’t yet voted to do it.”

The $110.1 million budget is $1.3 million less than the current FY2012 budget that will expire Saturday.

The only significant change to the budget that came Tuesday night, was the addition of a one-year, $50,000 subsidy to the Albany Civil Rights Institute.

C.W. Grant, chairman of the ACRI board, asked the commission for the funding after the organization missed the deadline to apply for funding from the city commission during the FY2013 budget preparation cycle.

“It was an oversight and we beg all of you for forgiveness,” Grant said while addressing the commission.

Grant said that the organization was in the beginning stages of a fundraising drive that he hoped would allow ACRI to become more self-sufficient.

Started on June 23, the ACRI is campaigning to get 200 area churches to commit to donating $100 per month to the organization to fund operations.

Grant also said that the organization hopes to revive a membership drive that was envisioned when the organization opened 10 years ago.

Grant said it was his hope that 3,000 to 5,000 new members will join the institute each year, at $25 per person. Currently ACRI has roughly 1,000 members, he said.

Some on the commission were skeptical of ACRI’s efforts.

“I don’t see a plan to really raise any funds,” Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike said. “Based on this information, I don’t see it. It’s hard when you’re raising taxes to invest money in other things.

Ward V Commissioner and Mayor Pro Tem Bob Langstaff said that he and his wife have each given their personal money to ACRI but that he doesn’t believe the taxpayers should subsidize it.

“My wife and I have given personally to support it, but I don’t believe it’s right to use tax dollars to support it,” Langstaff said. “There are a lot of good things out in the community to support, but, as a government, we have to get back to basics.”

In the end, the commission voted 6-1, with Langstaff voting against, to give the $50,000 to the ACRI for one more year.

On the flip side, commissioners voted to table a request from the Flint RiverQuarium for funding.

RiverQuarium Executive Director Sanders Lewellen told commissioners that discussions were continuing with officials at the Parks at Chehaw — a major determinant in the commission’s ultimate decision to award funding to the RiverQuarium — and that the organization had raised more than $500,000 in private funding and donations since December.

But after receiving a letter from the RiverQuarium officials insinuating that there may be some contractual obligation for the city to fund the Riverquarium for at least another two years, and that the Riverquarium was now asking for $250,000 after commissioners were considering granting $150,000, some commissioners had harsh words for Riverquarium board members and management.

“Frankly, it’s a bit of a slap in the face to jump to $250,000 when you knew we were considering $150,000. It doesn’t even sound like you asked please to me,” Pike said.

“It’s going to be difficult for me, as the representative of the poorest ward in the city, to explain to a little 80-year-old lady in south Albany how I’m going to raise her taxes to pay for the RiverQuarium. It’s a slap in the face really.”

Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard echoed Pike’s comments.

“I”ve been given my marching orders by the people of East Albany,” he said. “It would be hard to go and tell the senior citizens in my ward that we’re going to raise taxes, give money to the RiverQuarium and yet we’re going to cut transit services.”

Tommie Postell said that he too was “insulted” by the RiverQuarium’s request for $250,000 from $150,000 but still managed to make the motion to table a formal vote on whether to allocate funds and how much, until another meeting.

For now, the budget as voted on Tuesday night does not include any funding for the RiverQuarium, however commissioners can vote on a budget amendment after revisiting the issue at a later meeting.

Comments

VietVet1 2 years, 6 months ago

Why keep supporting ACRI when they can't meet their own goals?

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rightasrain 2 years, 6 months ago

That's right! Put my tax dollars to work in ACRI so bigotry, racism, and how to promote more division in a dying city/county may continue to be taught. By the way, since ACRI is "asking" churches to donate $100 per month to ACRI, is the insinuation that black pastors/congregations just as bigoted, racist, and divisive as the ACRI?

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sue 2 years, 6 months ago

the city is raising taxes regardless of what funding they do. stop blaming the tax raise on organizations working to create a better life in Daugherty county.

by the way, non-profit owned land that is not used for the non-profit business should be taxed at the market rate. How many unused pieces of property does Phoebe have sitting on the rolls not paying taxes on? Probably half of it's owned property, why don't you do something difficult for a change and take on that issue!

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MRKIA 2 years, 6 months ago

SUE: SEND ACRI YOUR MONEY SINCE IT WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE BETTER.

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Progressive 2 years, 6 months ago

The missing question is whether making a tax payer funded contribution to a private entity is legal? Remember Cutliff Grove, sand dune housing not finished, and other funding that tax payers are continued to be saddled with needs to STOP! Our commissioners are not experienced financial whiz kids, and should not be in the business of loaning or contributing tax dollars to private industry.

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Cartman 2 years, 6 months ago

So ACRI gets money even though it didn't file a timely request; and RQ is being considered because their tone didn't sound like "please"? Excuse me commissioners - you're racism is showing. I think the only responsible course of action is to tell both ACRI and RQ that money is extremely tight and we can't help you this year. It is ludicrous to raise taxes and give money to nonessential organizations.

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bigbob 2 years, 6 months ago

ACRI, helping destroy Albany in a very racist way.

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bubbavet 2 years, 6 months ago

I am surprised he didn't blame the Bush administration or "Whitey" for the delay.

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MRKIA 2 years, 6 months ago

EVERYTIME I SEE OR READ ABOUT ONE OF THESE OLD "CIVIL-RIGHTS" STUMPKNOCKERS OR A "RIGHT REVEREND", DEACON, DOCTOR,PASTOR, ECT.. TELLING EVERYONE WHO WILL LISTEN WHAT THE COMMUNITY NEEDS I WANT TO THROW UP. GRANT: YOU'RE THE BIG OLE CHAIR-MAN OF THE BOARD, WHO MISSED THE DEADLINE TO APPLY? THAT SAYS TO ME THAT NO ONE IS CONCERNED ABOUT THE VIABILITY OF THIS BOONDOGGLE, IT'S JUST AN INNOCENT OVERSIGHT THAT ACRI HAS NO MONEY TO KEEP THE DOORS OPEN. 3-5000 NEW MEMBERS? DON'T MAKE ME LAUGH.

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MRKIA 2 years, 6 months ago

LET THE NAACP FUND ACRI. WHY HASN'T THIS BEEN CONSIDERED BEFORE? THE INVOLVEMENT OF ANY GOVERNMENT BODY SHOULD GO NO FURTHER THAN THE APPLICATION FOR TAX EXEMPT STATUS. LET THE PEOPLE WHO WANT IT THE MOST PAY THE TAB FOR IT. THE WHITE GUY THAT WAS RUNNING IT BAILED OUT MONTHS AGO. MAYBE DCSS CAN "REPURPOSE" ACRI TO TRAIN STUDENTS CONSIDERING A CAREER IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS BUSINESS OR OBTAIN A PH.D ONLINE. THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS.

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willie 2 years, 6 months ago

I'm kind of surprised by the way the townsfolk show their disrespect for each other. They don't say much for themselves in the way of education, morality, well we should leave it at that, as this blog is better than the sunday funnies. I am beginning to find it as humorous as the townfolk are discerning.

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LoneCycler 2 years, 6 months ago

It would be nice if we could argue about what the City Commission should or should not fund without accusations of racial bias. Then again, this is Albany. The City Commission needs to have a set of rules they have to follow concerning the use of tax revenues. This seems to be decided on a yearly basis. These rules need to be written down and made permanent instead of relying on the whims of whatever group of commissioners happen to be in office in a particular year. I don't think anyone is going to agree with them deciding to dole out favors to privileged private corporations like ACRI while everyone else is left with nothing. If the intent is "economic development" people need to realize that while federal, state, city and county governments across the nation have tried this many times it never works. Developing the economy is not a government responsibility and government should not be in the business of deciding what organization gets a stimulus and what organization gets the stick. Give them all the stick and let our tax money be used only for things the government should do. I think it is outrageous that the City will cut bus service and still find money to give to ACRI.

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dingleberry 2 years, 6 months ago

We have three organizations that will always be our children needing tax money to exist--unless we get tough and force them to grow up. Chehaw's $1 million a year subsidy expires next year at the end of a 5-year run. ACRI has never broken even in its entire time in existence--$200,000 loss in the two year period ending 6/2010. The RQ has been living on its endowment which has all floated down a blue hole. None of the three will make it without substantial long term help to keep the doors open so the question becomes "How much more are we willing to do?".

For the RQ to request $150,000 a few weeks ago and now try to change the request to $250,000 and a multi year deal is evidence of prima facie evidence of weakness in the head or just plaln stupidity. How can RQ establish any credibility in the money arena when projections of need are good for only a month or so? Likewise, if ACRI needs money and has managers/board with any savvy, how could they miss the deadline to put their name in the hat for funds?

It seems Commissioners might benefit from getting the latest and historical audited financial statements and projected revenue and expense statements from these folks along with detailed info on how they plan to even make a half valid attempt to survive without public money. Give the info to one who understands money, since the Commission does not seem to, and have some serious discussions and head knocking with those involved. A financial analyst will likely conclude that based on past performance and future expectations, we can't afford to keep these guys on the payroll.

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LoneCycler 2 years, 6 months ago

The tax returns filed by ACRI are public information and can be obtained at no cost from GuideStar.org. I looked at their IRS 990 forms filed in 2009, 2010 and 2011. There are nowhere near 1000 members as they have to report the income from membership dues. It seems there are a few hundred dues paying members. Crunching the numbers for their admission fee income vs. their admission fee itself shows somewhere less than 300 people visit the museum per month. This, in itself, tells you all you need to know about ACRI. The 50K ACRI will obtain from the City of Albany is more income than they will take in from visitors and the items those visitors buy as souveniers for an entire year. You'd think someone in the media (TV, newspaper, etc.) would pick up on the fact that this organization is failing and failing very badly. Without Mt. Zion Church propping it up, and the City doing its part too, ACRI would not be able to pay their electricity bill. Their income from admission and sales is less than half of what they pay WG&L just to keep the lights and A/C on. If you think about this too long, it could lead to the idea that the entire ACRI funding is just a way for the City Commission to launder money for other uses through WG&L It's a good thing WG&L is independent from the City Commission. If that relationship ends, the money the Commission doles out for things like this will no doubt increase greatly.

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MRKIA 2 years, 6 months ago

TURNS OUT GRANT IS A BIG LIAR ALSO. 1000 MEMBERS HE SAYS? TRY 102. A MUSEUM DEDICATED TO RELIVING THE DEGREDATION OF BLACK FOLK. I'D RATHER WATCH TOENAILS GROW.

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