The homeless aid center that received just $32,000 in Community Development Block Grant money last year will get $150,000 this year under the mayor’s proposed Consolidated Plan budget.
That was one of the only changes in a budget that uses millions in federal dollars to support low-income housing, government programs and a variety of projects run by nonprofits. The proposed budget was revealed Monday to the Schenectady City Council, which will conduct a public hearing on May 6 and will vote May 12.
About $2 million of the plan is earmarked each year for city staff, including seven police officers, 12 code enforcers, and most of the development department. But the most controversial part of the program is the Community Development Block Grant, which can go to nonprofits for anything from tennis lessons to minivans. It has traditionally been given to the same agencies every year, most of which rely on the money to run youth activities and other programs.
The federal government cut the Community Development Block Grant by 25 percent this year, proposing to give the city $1.9 million. Luckily for them, many programs didn’t use their entire budget and had to return their money to the city to give out again this year, so the cut won’t be felt yet.
Next year, the funding reduction may be more easily absorbed, when many of the nonprofits who have counted on CDBG money for years will be cut off. The Schenectady City Council decided that after many years of funding the same programs in the CDBG portion of the budget, they would institute a two-year cut-off, beginning in 2009.
Without that rule, each year’s CDBG budget looks almost identical to the last.
There is only one new item in this year’s CDBG proposal: a part-time city worker who would focus on implementing the neighborhood goals in the comprehensive plan. That person would earn $33,753 in salary and benefits for 20 hours of work each week.
Every other item in the CDBG budget mirrors last year’s plan. But that means there will be a lot of space for new programs and agencies next year.
Agencies that will be cut off in 2009 if they are funded this year include Better Neighborhoods Inc., which stands to lose $44,000 for its homebuyer education and foreclosure prevention program; Carver Community Center, which would lose $16,877 for its evening youth activities program; Hamilton Hill Arts Center, which now gets $20,000 for CultureFest and Project Artreach; McTap, which has received $48,000 for many years as it tries to create a minority contractors technical assistance program; Damien Center, which gets $6,713 to work with HIV-positive residents; and the YMCA, which uses $33,224 to run a free summer camp at Jerry Burrell Park in Hamilton Hill.
Several new agencies did try to get funding this year, but didn’t make it into the mayor’s budget. The rejected proposals include a $27,000 request from 440 State Street Inc. for murals, which city officials have considered as a way to fight graffiti.
The mayor also didn’t support the two requests for equipment, something the city council has praised in the past because it’s usually a one-time cost, rather than an ongoing program that needs funding every year.
The two equipment requests were: $20,185 for a minivan for Catholic Charities’ medical transportation program and $100,000 for an electronic records system at Hometown Health Centers.
Also denied in the mayor’s proposed budget were a youth program run by Hispanic Outreach, at a cost of $32,284; mentoring from Big Brothers Big Sisters, which wanted $20,000; and a program by I Am Redeemed Ministries, which asked for $40,000. The agency wanted to run a “quality housing and employment” program, which was one of only three programs to receive a score of “low priority” from the city’s development office.
The other two others were Thomas Sports Group’s flag football and academic assistance programs. Thomas Sports asked for $17,500 for academic assistance and $3,000 for football.
Two other agencies were also denied: the popular 15-LOVE tennis program, which asked for $20,000, and SCAP’s career readiness program, which had one of the highest requests at $100,294.
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