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City Council Grapples with Neighborhood Agency Funding Decisions

By Fletcher Word
Sojourner’s Truth Editor

Toledo City Council turned down a funding request for two social service agencies last week by a seven-to-five vote due to concerns over budget deficit issues but Council has not yet heard the last of such requests this year. Councilman Larry Sykes says he is preparing a similar request for four different agencies that he will bring before his colleagues soon.

Sykes, who voted for the funding request for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Ohio and Grace Community Center that was proposed by Councilwoman Yvonne Harper, will be seeking funds for the Neighborhood Health Association, the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union, the YWCA and Family House in the amount of $50,000 each.

Sykes initially requested Community Development Block Grant funds in July for the four agencies along with two others. The funds were unavailable. Now he is asking Council and the administration to assist him in finding the funding from any convenient place – CDBG or the city’s general fund.

“These agencies impact the very salt of our community,” said Sykes. “We can find money for police, for various things. How does it break down along racial lines? People of color believe we have some serious problems.” Sykes chided his fellow councilmen who declined to vote for the two agencies last week considering the fact that funds have previously been earmarked for other community groups that by and large do not service the central city.

In June, council approved giving $50,000 each to the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, the UpTown Association, and the Historic South Initiative.

Sykes observed that three of the agencies he is promoting – NHA, the YWCA Battered Women’s Shelter and Family House – have gone to great lengths to provide housing for families in need and the credit union has worked diligently to assist those who have been entrapped by predatory lenders.

“There’s a subculture here that nobody wants to look at,” he added.

According to a 2018 State of Poverty in Ohio Report by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies, 39.6 percent of Lucas County residents in 2016 lived below the federal poverty line, a 9.4 percent jump from what it was in 2000. Lucas County, Sykes noted, is the poorest northern Ohio county.

Harper sought the funds for Grace Community Center and Big Brothers Big Sisters because it was her understanding that the city had $8.2 million in excess funds – an accounting error that was a source of contention in Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz’ successful campaign in 2017. However, the city is facing a possible $9.9 million budget deficit in 2019 and $15 million in 2020 leading the mayor to inform council members that he would veto additional spending from the city’s general fund.

This year, the city received approximately $7.5 million in Community Development Block Grant monies from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and passed $36,609 of that amount on to the Grace Community Center. Big Brothers Big Sisters did not receive any CDBG funds this year.

Big Brothers Big Sisters had requested the funds to replace monies from other sources, such as the federal government, that have started to dry up in recent years, bringing the agency to a crisis point soon. The $75 that was requested would enable the agency to avoid laying off several critical staff persons and ending its “I Am Somebody, I Count” program. That program works with as many as 80 youth per year in what Executive Director Johnny Mickler terms a leadership development training program – preparing high school-aged students for college and careers. The program finds them summer jobs, brings in speakers on a regular basis to inform and instruct and helps the youth obtain scholarships.

The three-year-old program began by working with students at Scott and Bowsher high schools, but has had to drop Scott as funds have dried up. Unless there is an infusion of money, the program will end at the start of the New Year, said Mickler.

In addition to Harper and Sykes, Council members Tyrone Riley, Cecelia Adams, PhD, and Peter Ujvagi voted in favor of funding for the two agencies last week. Council members Matt Cherry, Nick Komives, Sandy Spang, Gary Johnson, Rob Ludeman, Tom Waniewski and Chris Delaney were opposed.

Soon up for City Council – a request from developer Bruce Douglas seeking forgiveness for a $500,000 loan so he can sell his 52-unit Uptown Arts Apartments on 336 14th Street for a profit. The property has never turned a profit despite the 15-year community reinvestment tax abatement the owner received.




Copyright © 2018 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/04/18 09:50:53 -0400.

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