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Panel narrows social services funding to 4 options

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 by Mark Richardson

The difficult decisions continued Monday for the Council Public Health and Human Services Committee, which is in the process of dividing a very limited amount of money among numerous social service agencies seeking funding from the city for FY 2016.

The committee, including Council Members Mike Martinez, Chris Riley and Laura Morrison, has been working for several weeks on a recommendation to City Council on how divvy up the $16 million budgeted for contracts with social service agencies.

The city originally received about $30 million in funding requests from several organizations. After asking the agencies to submit revised proposals that reflected a lower yet still acceptable amount, the Health and Human Services staff brought the amount of requests down to about $19.5 million. That left only $3.5 million more to cut from the requests, which staff and committee members vowed to do between last Thursday and Monday’s meeting.

Both Martinez and Morrison presented two proposals each, which they both said were “only a starting point.”

“Even at the lowest level of funding requests, we are still at $19 million, and we don’t have the funds to meet those requests,” said Martinez, who chairs the committee. “We are obviously going to have to cut significantly to fit within our budget.”

Martinez’s Option 1 takes the organizations currently funded by the city that were recommended by city staff and funds them at 10 percent above their current contract or their lowest revised request. Collaboratives — groups working together on projects and applying as a single entity — were exempt from the 10 percent.

New programs would be funded at 50 percent of their original requested amount and not their lowest bid.

The programs that were not recommended for additional funding would maintain their current funding rate or be set at their lowest revised request. There were also several “special case” agencies that will be funded at various percentages of their requests based on their circumstances.

Martinez said the plan left about $100,000 on the table for add-backs to various programs as the committee might decide.

Martinez said that Option 2 was basically the same as Option 1, except that newly recommended programs would be funded at 70 percent of their original requested amount.

“What that does is take down the discretionary funding to essentially nothing,” he said.

Morrison also put forth two options for funding that were fairly similar to Martinez’s proposals.

Her first option takes currently funded programs that scored and fit the staff evaluation — those “above the line” — and gives them their previous funding plus 10 percent.

New programs that were above the line were funded at their lowest revised funding request, while existing programs that were below the line were calculated at a rate to make the total fit the budget.

The difference between her two options was that the first funded a small group of programs that had submitted incomplete or incorrect funding requests, and the other left those programs out.

“I noticed that as we went through these requests, there are a lot of applications here that are trying to replace lost funding,” Morrison said. “I did a rough estimate, and it’s well over a million dollars. It’s something that’s important for us to know that federal and state funding is getting cut and we are that last safe harbor for folks.”

After taking a closer look and adjusting several of the agencies’ funding requests, the committee decided to put its numbers out for the public to examine and give comment on at its next meeting, set for Oct. 21.

Spreadsheets with the four funding options will be posted online on the HHS Committee website.


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