Service agencies’ requests scrutinized

Monday, June 13, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:38 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Jordan Alexander had the same question for many of the local agencies making a pitch for money at recent hearings of the Boone County Community Services Advisory Commission.

“If you don’t receive this funding, what will you do?” the commissioner asked.

The applicants’ answers ranged from discontinuing programs to going elsewhere for money, either through grants or fundraisers.

The 10-member commission, charged with recommending each year how the city of Columbia and Boone County should spend their social services money, met Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights to evaluate each agency’s requests for fiscal 2006.

In all, the agencies are asking for more than $1.14 million. Thirty-eight agencies operating 55 programs asked the city for a total of $981,853, and 22 agencies operating 28 programs sought a total of $161,630 from the county.

While the city is willing to spend more than the $847,350 it distributed last year, the requests continue to exceed the budget.

For 2006, city officials asked the commission to present two sets of recommendations: one assuming a 2 percent increase in social services spending, or $860,200, and the other assuming a 3 percent increase, or $868,650, said Phil Steinhaus, director of the Office of Community Services.

County officials asked for recommendations based on 0 percent, 2 percent and 3 percent increases that would place spending somewhere between $121,500 and $125,200, Steinhaus said.

While the precise impact of Medicaid cuts on local agencies remains to be seen, the need to watch for and address those effects was a common theme at the hearings. Both the Boone County Council on Aging and Services for Independent Living predicted the cuts will put a strain on their operations.

“This is something we need to focus on because those are basic services that are being cut,” Commissioner Susan Christy said.

Agencies focusing on at-risk youth, including Community Playground Inc. (Fun City), the Intersection, the Boys and Girls Club, Boys and Girls Town of Missouri, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Destiny of Hope, requested more than $300,000.

Commissioner Reginald Kinsey said youth-mentoring programs need to be better structured and coordinated in the area. Saying he wants to help the agencies accomplish their goals, Kinsey focused his questions on the youth programs’ objectives and outcomes.

The commission, which will make its preliminary recommendations today, is using a new system for evaluating the applications.

“It used more criteria that are more specifically related … to the information requested in the funding proposal,” Steinhaus said.

“While the commission recognizes there are many well-run programs in the community, they target their funds toward those programs that meet the highest needs in the community,” he said.

Steinhaus said applications for money have nearly doubled in the past 12 years.

“Growth in the community translates into growth and need,” he said. “The number of people who live in poverty is larger than it was 12 years ago. There is also a growing aging population.”

The commission meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Boone County Government Center. After making its preliminary decisions, it will hold a public hearing July 12 before sending final recommendations to the Columbia City Council and the Boone County Commission.

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