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City to look at non profits

This is the season to be giving; however, in the case of North Little Rock and its city council, officials returning to office in 2013 want to give to worthy causes but with more financial scrutiny.

In the 2013 city budget, there are appropriations for various causes, such as Art Connection which is getting $85,000, neighborhood gardens which are being earmarked $50,000, the Center for Homeless which is getting $100,000, and the Boys and Girls Club to receive $50,000.

Alderman Debi Ross said she would like to see non profits who receive money from the city give more information about how they use city funds.

Ross said groups that receive city funds should provide to North Little Rock the names of their board members and tax records.

“It should be transparent,” Ross said.

City Attorney Jason Carter the council has the right to ask for additional information.

“The money provided to a non-profit is not a gift,” Carter said. “They are providing a service to our people. They are providing a government-provided service. When they accept our funds they are contracted.”

Carter said some non profits might have a problem providing some information.

“Not all non profits generate enough revenue to file tax forms but we can ask for it,” Carter said.

Alderman Linda Robinson said she is more concerned about the result produced by the city dolling out the money.

“What I would rather see when we give a non-profit $30,000 or $50,000 are the outcomes,” Robinson said. “I want to see this more than their tax records. I want to know what we got for the $50,000.”

Mayor Patrick Hays said the city could provide a performance audit of non profits.

“We could review some of these or spot check them,” Hays said. “That is a good idea. If we are going to have a contract to do certain services then there should be some periodical review on how they are performing with the money we are providing in relation to that contract.”

Alderman Beth White said she agreed with the idea of making sure there is more transparency in non profits.

Hays said the issue could be handled several ways, including the form of an executive order coming from the city council.

Ross said she would like to see information attached to the city budget about the non profits getting city money.

“If it is attached to the budget we know what we are looking at beforehand,” Ross said. “If someone is going to give me $20,000 or $50,000 I would spit out that piece of paper in an hour or two. It should be provided by the end of the year.”

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