Two weeks ago, after finding that his organization’s request for $10,000 had been left off the warrant of the Unity town meeting, Waldo Community Action Partners’ Transportation Director Edward Murphy told residents that he was disappointed, because, he said, “it’s your best dollar spent.” We, too, were disappointed, because he was right. It would have been money spent more wisely than just about any other expenditure on the warrant. Ironically, it was left out as an act of thrift.

Rarely does a town meeting adjourn without some scrutiny of the handful of requests that come from social-service and other nonprofit organizations. Residents want to know if the group has provided services in their town. They want to know how much and to whom. They want to hear from a representative of the group. And often, as Michael Sirota of the American Red Cross observed this week, even when voters argue vehemently against funding the organizations that provide home health-care to senior citizens, subsidized early-childhood education, heating fuel assistance and home weatherization improvements, resources for women in abusive relationships, public transportation and recreation, reason seems to prevail when it comes to a vote.

Which is to say, most towns seem to make a good faith effort to strike a balance between supporting outside services and minimizing the tax burden on residents (As a Searsmont resident noted this week at town meeting, a list of residents who have not been able to pay their taxes appears in the town report every year). Often the compromise involves cutting the request in half, or approving a seemingly arbitrary portion, as though only a fool would pay full price.

But contributing to social services is not just compassionate, it is financially smart. Many of the social-service organizations give back exponentially more to the town than they ask for in contributions. WCAP, for example, requests just two percent of the value of services the organization provided in the town during the previous year. Two percent. But without that two percent, other money and services would cease to be available. Though the total amount a nonprofit organization receives from municipalities is typically less than 5 percent of its total operating budget, these contributions often lead to matching funds from state and federal programs. Other reimbursements that the nonprofit social-services organizations bank on come with stipulations about how much money must be raised from municipal donations.

Every year we watch the more fiscally hawkish selectmen and -women of the county pass over social services, arguing that towns shouldn’t fund outside organizations and taxes must be kept low at all cost. But what selectman wouldn’t appropriate an extra $10,000 if he could turn it into $100,000 right away? This is what the better of the social-service organizations are doing, and they are doing it on behalf of the people who need it most.