Leaders of some nonprofits are alarmed after hearing that Nassau County is considering changing the way it does business with not-for-profit organizations by requiring them to competitively bid on contracts.
That would replace the current system of allowing nonprofits with long-term contracts to apply to renew them year after year.
Joseph Smith, executive director of Long Beach Reach, said competitive bidding won't work for human services.
"If you want to say you need an RFP to make sure the best pens are purchased for the lowest cost, I don't think anyone's going to argue with that," Smith said. "But the fact of the matter is, we're talking about services to people. These are relationships that are established between professionals and the community."
The Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, an umbrella group that represents a variety of social services nonprofits, approached County Executive Edward Mangano in May with the idea of competitively bidding out health and human services contracts through a "request for proposals" system.
Gwen O'Shea, president and chief executive, said she knows not every nonprofit agrees with her group's idea.
But, she said, "government shouldn't be focused on organizations. Government should be focused on services. I think we need to change the way we think about that."
O'Shea said her group brought its idea to the county as a way to not only save money, but also to redirect services to different areas of the county if necessary.
"Communities that are most underserved would benefit," O'Shea said.
While there's no estimate on how much the county could save, Mangano said he is considering the idea.
"We are assessing whether the Health and Welfare Council's suggestion will save Nassau taxpayers dollars while delivering important services to some of our most vulnerable residents," Mangano said.
The county currently has 280 health and human services contracts totaling about $93.8 million. About $20 million of that is county money, and the rest is state money administered through the county.
But some nonprofit leaders said that the RFP process would favor larger organizations that often have grant writers on staff.
The idea is not "in the best interest of smaller agencies," said Pat Boyle, executive director of Gateway Youth Outreach in Elmont, a longtime county contractor. "I can afford to hire a grant writer if I forget about maybe 100 kids. And I'm not doing that."
Nassau County Social Services Commissioner John Imhofcq said while he has reservations about the idea, the county has a duty to examine proposals that could potentially save money.
"We have to look at all these issues," he said. "There are less and less dollars available, and there have to be some changes somewhere."