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Assessment to assist in county funding decisions

During the county commission’s December meeting, United Way President Lester Lattany presented an overview of the 2013 Community Needs Assessment for Johnson City, Jonesborough and Washington County.
The assessment is a result of a joint effort of the United Way board, service agencies and local businesses, according to Lattany. “We want to involve local leaders so we are making several public presentations,” he told commissioners.
Forty-seven community agencies provided input by attending a community forum or completing a survey. The final document was created by the Community Needs Assessment Report Committee.
According to Lattany, community collaboration is the goal of the assessment. “The more we work together, the better our community will be,” he said.
The priority of the community needs has been determined by population segment, service gaps, needed resources and lack of available resources. At the top of the list are the need for greater community collaboration among community service agencies, the restructuring of the process used to provide information on the services available, and the provision of the services to those in the community with the greatest need.
Goals and objectives were established under the identified focus areas of education; income; health; and community collaboration and partnership.
Mayor Dan Eldridge said the assessment will be helpful to the county in a number of ways.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to how Washington County funds nonprofits,” he said.
Similar comments have been made by commissioners and members of the public during the annual budget process.
Whether the county should even be making gifts to nonprofits with taxpayer dollars is a repeated question that has never been decisively answered.
Currently, bases for decisions on funding include historical tradition, requests to the Budget Committee and a disorganized proposal presentation process to the General Health and Welfare Committee.
“This (assessment) is the objective criteria we have needed to evaluate the needs of the nonprofits, and more so, what the needs in the community are,” Eldridge said. “They’ve done the hard work.”
The assessment will be an excellent tool to revamp the county’s process during the 2014-15 budget preparation, according to Eldridge.
“We’ve never had an objective means to determine the amount of the contribution (to the nonprofit) or measure the value to the community.”
Lattany said results of the assessment will be available on the United Way website,