Columbia County Community Connections is always looking to expand its programs, but has outgrown its funding source.
So the nonprofit is on the hunt for a new, or additional, fiscal agent with deeper pockets.
Harlem has been the organization's fiscal agent since 2004, said Julie Miller, Community Connections executive director.
But the organization is outgrowing the city's budget.
So Community Connections officials asked Columbia County officials to consider stepping up at an April meeting of the county Management and Financial Services Committee.
Community Connections operates solely on grant funds, but the funding capability of Harlem restricts grant opportunities.
"There's a number of things we would like to expand, Miller said. "Our budget is sort of at the maximum point. If we expand any more, increase our budget, we'd really push them into an area where they are not really comfortable going."
Many of those grants are reimbursement grants, meaning the nonprofit needs a fiscal agent to provide funds up front until the money is spent and reimbursed by the grant provider.
Community Connections provides many programs county-wide, including abstinence education, the Saturday Sacks program providing children with food for the weekend, a senior food box program, homework and graduation assistance, and the Ryan Clark Memorial Scholarship.
The city provides much of the more than $900,000 annual Community Connections budget up front until the grants are reimbursed, said Harlem City Manager Jean Dove. If possible, the money comes out of a fund set up for Community Connections grant money.
"That's a lot of money for us to deal with," Dove said. "She wants to apply for more grants, but we're restricting her. ... She has other grants that she could get to grow larger."
Dove said the funding hasn't yet been a financial strain on the city, which operates on a nearly $1.8 million general fund budget. But the administrative tasks associated with managing the grant funds are extensive.
Community Connections can't get some larger grants if the funding ability is not in place. Miller said she's looking at several options to expand the Community Connections budget, including taking on a new fiscal agent or adding another in addition to Harlem.
Fiscal agents have to be a government agency or large nonprofit organization. Since Community Connections programs serve the entire county, mainly in the schools, Miller said she's asked the county and is considering asking the Board of Education to help.
But leaving Harlem completely is not an option, she said.
"We're not leaving Harlem," Miller said, adding she doesn't want being a fiscal agent to burden the city or any other agency. "We don't want to leave Harlem. We're happy here. We're looking for additional ways to expand."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.