Each year, typically during budget development season, the South Burlington City Council reviews social services funding requests they receive from Chittenden County non-profits. In 2014, the council set aside a Saturday to hear presentations from all of the agencies, but in 2015 made the decision to hear only from new applicants. This year they asked all agencies to provide more detailed information about their requests and the number of South Burlington residents they serve. With this information in hand, they decided upon a maximum social services funding figure of $40,600 at their November 14 meeting.
In 2015, the council received funding requests from 19 organizations totaling $54,711. They funded $38,955 of that initial figure. This year, the council received 22 requests with a funding total of $53,257 and agreed at their November 14 meeting to approve funding in the amount of $40,600. Many of those requesting funds do so every year, such as the HowardCenter and Common Roots, but a couple of new organizations were in the mix this year including Vermont Adult Learning, HopeWorks, and the Chill Out Center, a teen center being developed in the University Mall.
With so many worthy organizations requesting assistance, the council has a difficult task deciding where to distribute funds. The council members each received a spreadsheet with accompanying documents pertaining to each organization in order to make their funding distribution decisions. The final amounts were an average of the five councilors’ recommendations. Council discussion on the matter included why councilors chose certain levels of funding. For example, Pat Nowak explained that she opted not to fund the Chill Out Center because she did not feel the organization had explored all of their funding options, including reaching out to the school district. She noted that she isn’t disrespectful of what they are trying to do, but was curious to know where the equipment went from the teen center that was located in the mall years ago.
Tim Barritt broached the topic of tax dollars going to social services agencies since he assumed many councilors and residents make charitable contributions to health and human services agencies throughout the year. Tom Chittenden also wondered how well each councilor knew the organizations to which they were being asked to contribute. Nowak pointed out that councilors had spent long sessions in years prior hearing from agencies and reading their narratives. With the averages determined, Nowak made a motion to approve the final funding, Chittenden seconded, and the decision was unanimous.
Tom Hubbard explained that in the general fund, social services funding is listed as one line item, but he would be glad to create an appendix in the budget book, so residents can see more detail about the agencies set to receive support from the city. In addition to the three new organizations, returning agencies that received funding this year included the American Red Cross, Age Well, Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, Child Care Resource, Committee on Temporary Shelter, the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, Common Roots, Community Health Centers of Burlington, HomeShare Vermont, HowardCenter, Lund, PACT, ReSource, United Way, South Burlington Family Center, Steps to End Domestic Violence, the Vermont Association for the Blind, the Visiting Nurses Association, and the Vermont Center for Independent Living.
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent