As City Council’s year came to a close, much of the business was saying goodbye to those who are leaving, but there were issues that required votes and even debate.
During budget hearings, Council set aside $245,000 in contingent reserve for disputed allocations for The Campagna Center’s after-school program. The Center went before Council Tuesday night.
“I was under the impression that this funding was for discrepancies in employee compensation,” said Councilman David Speck. “Now I am under the impression that it is programmatic.”
It was both.
“Our staff is paid significantly less than private providers throughout the region,” said Katherine Morrison, the executive director of The Campagna Center. “Also, $107,000 of what is being considered as administrative costs by the city is actually enrichment costs such as dance instructors.”
Campagna Kids operates 13 centers throughout the city. These centers provide after-school activities for children whose parents pay a fee. The city’s own recreation department offers programs at all of the city’s recreation centers at no cost to parents. Originally, Campagna Kids asked for an additional $430,000 in funding. It negotiated with the city and agreed to $245,000. The city staff, at Tuesday’s meeting, recommended $184,000, keeping $50,000 in reserve in case enrollment in the program declined and the Department of Human Services (DHS) was asked to pick up the costs that were not defrayed by parent fees.
“We do not have additional funding if enrollment declines as it did this year,” said DHS interim director, Beverly Steele. “We want to keep this $50,000 in reserve in case that occurs again this year. Also, we do not believe that we should pay for additional administrative direct and indirect costs that we calculate to be 25 percent. We believe that this can be reduced, and if it cannot, perhaps we should be operating the program ourselves.
“We would like to hire a monitor to look at this program and others throughout the city and come back with a recommendation as to what the most cost-effective system might be.”
COUNCILWOMAN Joyce Woodson agreed. “I am hearing that when the city provided a block grant and said that this was the amount and there wasn’t going to be anymore, we were able to administer the program more easily,” she said. “It seems to me that that was the best deal for the taxpayers. This business of, give us $245,000 now and we might have to ask for more later, is not good.”
Morrison defended the program saying, “Thanks to all of you, we have 25 years of experience delivering this program,” she said. “What if we weren’t collecting any fees or getting any federal money and the taxpayers had to pick up millions of dollars of cost?”
Woodson demurred. “I’m not convinced that this would happen,” she said.
Councilwoman Redella S. “Del” Pepper moved that the entire $245,000 be allocated to Campagna Kids. Speck agreed to vote for the motion reluctantly. “I am going to support the motion because it’s my last meeting and it’s just not worth arguing about,” he said. “But I am concerned that this is not what this money was set aside for during the budget process.”
Mayor Kerry J. Donley also supported the motion but cautioned future Councils. “I am going to support the motion, but I do agree with Ms. Woodson that there is nothing to preclude The Campagna Center from coming back and asking for more money in the middle of the year,” he said. “I support the city manager’s recommendation to have a monitor look at these programs and make a recommendation as soon as possible.”
The motion passed 5-1, with Woodson voting against it.
CITY COUNCIL also approved the concept of a community center in Arlandria. The recommendation came from Donley.
“We have received a concept paper from the Tenant and Workers Support Committee [TWSC] that is recommending a public/private partnership,” Donley said. “I am recommending that staff move ahead in looking at this concept and coming back to the next Council in the fall with a recommendation.”
The concept is to look at building a community center in Arlandria located at 3308 Mount Vernon Ave. “The building is currently under contract to TWSC,” Donley said. “Seventeen hundred square feet would be used for a community center, and 1,300 square feet would be used for TWSC offices. TWSC would deposit an initial $106,000 and immediately initiate a capital campaign to raise $150,000.”
Additionally, TWSC would acquire a mortgage of $228,000, and the city would take a second trust of $300,000 for 99 years, Donley told Council.
“This would allow TWSC to raze the property and construct a community center. The program is very ambitious and needs to be studied, but the public/private partnership is a good concept, and I hope that Council will support it.”
Councilman William D. Euille agreed. “I am going to move this recommendation and look forward to the report from staff in the fall,” he said.
Vice Mayor Bill Cleveland also agreed. “I want all of you out there in Arlandria to know that I am going to be watching,” he said. “You have a mayor from Del Ray and two Council members from Del Ray. You have at least three votes, and you only need four. I want you to know that I am with you.”
The motion to pursue the study passed unanimously.
Mayor-elect William Euille and the new Council will be sworn into office July 1.