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Outside agencies appeal to council for funds

Friday, April 26, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

A 56 percent increase in services to city residents during the past year is prompting Citizens Against Family Violence (CAFV) to ask Martinsville City Council for more funding in the coming fiscal year.

Because of economic conditions, “it’s been a very challenging year,” said CAFV Executive Director Melissa Gravely. But the agency has stayed open, although similar agencies elsewhere that provide services to abuse victims have closed, including one in Danville, she noted.

CAFV is one of 18 area agencies which receive city funding annually that appeared before the council Tuesday night to explain why the city should continue funding them, considering its finances are extremely tight.

Agencies were asked to appear before the council or risk losing their city allocations.

CAFV asked the city for $14,500 for the fiscal year that will start July 1. The city’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget includes $12,150 for the agency, which is the same amount it received for the current fiscal year.

The council did not commit to giving CAFV, or any other agency, any funds, let alone an increase. Mayor Kim Adkins said changes to the budget proposal may be considered during a future council budget work session.

But “I know you have a really tough challenge,” Adkins told Gravely.

In the past fiscal year, CAFV served 506 victims of domestic violence (a 21 percent increase from the previous year), plus 204 sexual assault victims (a 74 percent increase), 314 victims of homelessness (a 29 percent increase) and 131 women and 54 children given refuge at its emergency shelter (a 31 percent increase), according to Gravely.

She did not have figures for the current budget year, but she said that 645 out of 1,742 people assisted in fiscal 2012 were Martinsville residents. That was 232 more city residents than in the previous year, statistics show.

Other services that CAFV provides clients include financial assistance, such as for household expense, a report provided by the agency shows.

The 56 percent increase in services to city residents was “significantly larger” than increases for other localities, she said.

Economic problems contribute to stress in households, and that stress can lead to violence, Gravely said. Yet she thinks the caseload increases mostly are due to more people becoming aware of CAFV’s services, she said.

CAFV employs nine full-time employees and four part-time staff members. Gravely said if the council reduces its funds to the agency, one full-time job may have to be eliminated.

Gravely added that although its employees’ salaries are about 21 percent below what similar agencies elsewhere pay their employees, CAFV does not plan to give its staff members pay raises in fiscal 2014.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge and the Longwood Small Business Development Center also were among agencies that are proposed to receive less city money than they requested.

Although they asked for $25,000, the Boys & Girls Clubs are budgeted for level city funding of $15,390. Club officials said more funding would enable them to serve more youth by hiring more employees.

The clubs have a waiting list of 116 youth. Executive Director Laurie Wardle said Department of Social Services rules limit the number of elementary school children that an employee can oversee.

Longwood is proposed to get level funding of $8,550 although it requested $10,000. Executive Director Dick Ephgrave said the agency is planning new programs, including a small business incubator for high school and community college students interested in starting businesses after they graduate.

Ephgrave encouraged the council not to reduce its funding to Longwood because the agency’s funding from localities is matched dollar-for-dollar by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Therefore, for every dollar that the council might cut, Longwood would lose $2, he said.

The agency, operated by Longwood University, works with start-up and existing small businesses “to get them over bumps in the road,” he said.

The Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) also offers services to small businesses. Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge expressed concern about potentially funding duplicate services.

Other council members and Ephgrave indicated that Longwood, the EDC and other area providers of services to small firms each offer different services.

Longwood’s speciality, they indicated, is helping firms create business plans to help them grow and succeed.

“Our economic development efforts (programs) have different niches that have evolved” over time, Adkins said.

The council also heard from city constitutional offices and agencies that the city is required to help fund, such as Henry-Martinsville Social Services and the Henry-Martinsville Health Department, about their budget needs.


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