By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — Fifteen Port Angeles nonprofits that have historically received funding from the city could lose, on average, more than $3,500 apiece next year under a preliminary city budget made public last week.
But the recommendation to excise more than $56,000 in funding to these nonprofits is far from decided, and a number of City Council members have pledged to work with City Manager Dan Mc-Keen to find ways to at least partially restore the money.
The United Way of Clallam County serves as the shepherd for city funding to the 15 nonprofits, which provide a range of health and social services to the city's low-income, senior, and mentally and physically challenged populations.
Jody Moss, United Way of Clallam County's executive director, said the group she heads not only distributes funds but also helps determine, with the help of City Council members, which nonprofits get what.
Moss said removing city funds set aside for United Way allocation from the city's 2013 preliminary budget will hurt community members who receive benefits from these nonprofits.
“It's cuts to services that are already kind of struggling,” she said.
The $56,250 less in funding for the United Way — $55,125 for the nonprofits and $1,125 for United Way administrative costs — is part of a balanced 2013 preliminary budget McKeen presented Tuesday at a City Council work session.
McKeen presented a 2013 operating budget with $18.7 million in the general fund, which pays for most of the costs associated with the city's departments.
That figure is about 5 percent, or about $1 million, less than the general fund amount in the city's final 2012 budget.
The city's total operating budget for 2013 is expected to be $99.7 million, up nearly 4 percent from last year, due primarily to increases in electricity costs.
The city began budget discussions this year with an initial general fund deficit of about $840,000, due mostly to the sunset of federal grants for police department funding and reduced sales tax revenue, McKeen said.
“Quite frankly, our revenues don't support all the programs we want to provide,” McKeen said at the work session. “In fact, [revenues do not support] all the programs we had last year.”
The 2013 proposed budget McKeen and city Chief Financial Officer Byron Olson presented covered expected revenues and expenditures for each city department, in addition to laying out what funding cuts need to be made to close the 2013 deficit.
The cuts include eight eliminated city staff positions — two through layoffs and six through not filling vacant positions — and reductions in other employee-related costs.
The presentation did not explicitly mention the $56,250 that the United Way of Clallam County may lose, though the reduction is addressed on Page 11 of the 2013 preliminary budget document released Wednesday.
City Councilman Dan Di Guilio brought up the United Way cut in funding at the end of the work session.
Di Guilio said he understood and appreciated the hard work McKeen and city staff put into the 2013 proposed budget but said he thought the funding priorities may need to be rearranged so as not to harm the city's most vulnerable populations.
“We're jerking out the safety net for some of the most needy in our community,” Di Guilio said at the work session. “I'm not really happy about that.”
In a Thursday interview, Di Guilio, who used to serve on the United Way Board of Directors but is no longer affiliated with the organization, reiterated his desire to work with city staff to find money to replace the funds the United Way may lose under the 213 preliminary budget.
Many of the Port Angeles nonprofits to which United Way allocates city funds run preventative programs, Di Guilio said, the aim of which is to help the city's neediest residents and, by proxy, reduce higher costs to the city over the long-term.
“Early intervention programs are a way of preventing those costs down the road,” Di Guilio said.
In a Friday interview, McKeen said he had to prioritize the city's core services, such as public safety and street maintenance, over continuing to fund health and human services through the United Way, though McKeen said he realizes helping the city's most vulnerable populations is of dire importance.
“One of the most difficult decisions balancing this year's budget was cutting funding to health and human services,” he said.
McKeen said he welcomes discussion with City Council members about reinstating that funding but said that “collective decisions will need to be made on where the funding will come from.”
Of the $55,125 the city gave to 15 nonprofits last year, according to data provided by the United Way, the allocated funds representing 43 percent of what the nonprofits requested for 2012.
The nonprofits currently getting funds range in size from national organizations with branches in Port Angeles, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, to locally organized and run programs with only a handful of staff members.
The First Step Family Support Center has historically received the greatest percentage of its budget for Port Angeles operations from the city's allocation, according to United Way records.
In 2012, the city gave First Step $3,500, which represents 47 percent of the program's budget for providing resources and assistance to low-income parents with children less than a year old to 5 years old in Port Angeles.
Nita Lynn, executive director of the Step Up center, said the drop-in center set up in a house at 325 East 6th St. that caters to about 450 people every month and provides free child resources, such as diapers, formula and a playroom, to families that would normally not be able to afford them.
Lynn said she would most likely have to reduce hours at the Pdrop-in center if the city's funding dries up, though she said she'll continue working to collect funds from other sources, such as grants and donations.
“I won't give up,” Lynn said. “[The drop-in center] is a priority for us.”
Lynn said she understands the city must prioritize money for what's considered core services but said she feels the work done by nonprofits like hers also have a positive effect on public safety.
“I don't feel we should be competing against each other, but the definition of public safety and [public] health needs to be defined a little bit bigger,” she said.
Despite her disappointment at the possibility of her group's city funding ending next year, Lynn said she realizes the current economy is affecting everyone and that tough budget decisions have to be made.
“We're all in this together,” Lynn said. “I think we're all looking for the same well-being.”
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at email@example.com.