Chattanooga budget shorts social service agencies

Chattanooga budget shorts social service agencies

May 11th, 2012 by Cliff Hightower in News

Daisy Madison, CFO for the city of Chattanooga

AFFECTED AGENCIES

The social service agencies asking for city funding are:

• Partnership for Children, Families and Adults

• Children's Advocacy Center

• Joe Johnson Mental Health Center

• Homeless Healthcare

• Senior Neighbors

• Signal Center

• AIM Center

• Orange Grove

• Children's Home/Chambliss Shelter

• Community Foundation

• Speech and Hearing Center

• On Point

• Bethlehem Center

• Girls Inc.

• Fortwood Center

• Urban League

Source: United Way

Officials with Chattanooga social service agencies are in shock after the city's proposed budget for their services came out $173,000 less than they expected.

"It seems the city is just taking this money and using it for city projects and programs," said Phil Acord, president and CEO of the Children's Home/Chambliss Shelter. "I don't even know what our number is in that budget."

Mayor Ron Littlefield's administration released a $209 million budget Tuesday that included $700,000 to be divvied between social service agencies. The United Way of Greater Chattanooga evaluated each agency and recommended funding amounts to the city.

But the United Way recommendation was based on $873,000, not $700,000, said Ross Schram, a United Way board member in charge of allocations.

That's what the city told the organization several weeks ago would be available, he said.

"It was a little surprising when the city budget came out," he said.

And the proposed budget doesn't list recommended allocations by agency. Instead, it has a lump sum of $700,000 for "Allocation reviewed by United Way," records show.

"You know you're in there, but you don't know how much you're in there," Acord said.

Daisy Madison, the city's chief financial officer, said the $873,000 figure was an early estimate to United Way. She said increased costs at other quasi-governmental agencies meant more city money for them and less for the social service providers.

The city also had to place $1.7 million in pension funds, she said.

Overall, she said, city funding to agencies, including social services and quasi-governmental such as the library and the planning agency will come in at $19.2 million, compared with $20 million in the current year.

Councilwoman Carol Berz, chairwoman of the Budget and Finance Committee, said she was given the $873,000 figure to share with the agencies but later learned the number would be lower. She said it was because of the pension costs.

"It was other costs they weren't anticipating," she said.

Berz said the council will meet Tuesday with United Way officials to discuss the reduced funding.

Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said Thursday when contacted by a reporter that it was the first time she heard about the lower figure to social service agencies.

"I was unaware," she said.

She said the only thing she could see happening at this point is an across-the-board percentage slash.

Acord said he is completely disenchanted with how the United Way review process was handled. He said his agency requested $347,500 for its early childhood program, which serves at-risk children from 6 weeks to 12 years old. United Way proposed $197,000.

But now Acord doesn't know how much his agency will be funded and how to prepare for a reduced budget.

"They've made us faceless," he said. "They've made us a nonentity because we're all lumped into a number."