05/16/11 — City budget cuts funds for GHS grad coach, plus non-profits

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City budget cuts funds for GHS grad coach, plus non-profits

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on May 16, 2011 1:46 PM

The city's first proposed budget contained no appropriations for the American Red Cross, Project Uplift, WATCH or the Boys and Girls Club and would effectively end Communities in Schools' graduation coach at Goldsboro High School.

City Manager Tasha Logan pointed out that the groups were eligible to apply for the Community Development Block Grant and District 2 Councilman Bob Waller suggested the council go out of its way to notify the organizations about their eligibility for CDBG funds and to encourage them to apply if their requests weren't met through the city's general fund. District 5 Councilman Chuck Allen expressed concern that the fund would only stretch so far, a legitimate concern, it turns out, when looking at the grant funds.

Department of Communi-ty Development administrator Valerie Powell-Best said the amount of CDBG funds her department can allocate depends directly on the federal government's annual allocation. She said 15 percent of the funds and up to 15 percent of the prior year's income can be put toward the grants.

Last year's federal funds amounted to $430,101, and her department has spent 84 percent of its possible $64,515.15 allotment, which represents 15 percent of the total. This year, estimates predict federal funds will decrease by 17 percent, meaning the CDBG will have $53,957.10 to distribute.

The budget proposal showed that Communities in Schools had been given $29,000 during the 2010-11 fiscal year, although director Sudie Davis said that was incorrect. Finance Director Kaye Scott later confirmed that the $29,000 had been given in 2009-10. Mrs. Davis said her organization requested no funds last year and lowered its request to $20,000 this year in hopes of getting its request fully met.

"We went two years on what they gave us before," she said.

The city teamed up with the county in 2009-10 to give matching donations of $29,000 to help start a graduation coach position at Goldsboro High School. Mrs. Davis said in the position's first year, the graduation percentage at Goldsboro High rose 9 percent and that test scores also came up by about 9 percent.

"We may not be the only factor that made that happen, but I feel confident that we were a part of the reason for that success and we would like to keep that person there to help those kids who need that extra push," she said. "The Communities in Schools graduation coach has been such a valuable asset for Goldsboro High School. Our students at Goldsboro High School deserve caring adults in their lives. People who can mentor them help them if they need some help with academics or help them realize there are resources out there."

Mrs. Davis said without the city's funding, the graduation coach, who coordinates more than 30 volunteer mentors who volunteered more than 500 hours of tutoring and mentoring, wouldn't be able to operate.

"That's what we would give up," she said.

Wayne County's 2010-11 budget not only provided for continued funding for the Goldsboro High School graduation coach, but also added another $29,000 for a similar position at Southern Wayne.

Council members noted that the original agreement with Communities in Schools was to fund the project for one year, referencing a conversation between District 6 Councilman Jackie Warrick and Wayne County Development Alliance vice president Mike Haney on Aug. 17, 2009, in which Haney noted that the donation was envisioned as a one-time contribution just before council approved the allocation of funds.

As the leader of a non-profit, however, Mrs. Davis said she knew there would always be capital issues, but was surprised the city didn't see fit to provide for its own residents in the first budget draft.

"We always knew that we may have to be out there chasing money, but the interesting part of this is probably 95 percent of the kids we help live in the city of Goldsboro," she said. "These are kids who have grown up here in the city and many of them will choose to stay in the city of Goldsboro. A lot of them live in homes where their families are not supportive of education so what's going to happen to our kids without the community helping?"

Ms. Logan noted that the graduation coach program had been deemed a success.

The combined requests from the Red Cross, Project Uplift, WATCH, the Boys and Girls Club and Communities in Schools totaled $100,000, and the budget's proposed agency donation total was $306,000, a $40,985 decrease from last year.

GATEWAY, the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, Waynesborough Park and the Wayne County Alliance all would receive donations. GATEWAY was allotted $180,000, the Chamber $15,000, Waynesborough Park $24,000 out of the occupancy tax fund and $75,000 for the Wayne County Alliance. The museum also would receive $12,000.

District 4 Councilman Rev. Charles Williams was also particularly concerned about the lack of funding for the projects, noting that funding had been cut from organizations that specialized in dealing with children from low-income homes.

"Are you aware that Project Uplift, the Boys and Girls Club and Communities in Schools, and Rebuilding Broken places are all for poor and underprivileged after-school programs?" he asked Ms. Logan.

Waller expressed similar concern, noting that in the aftermath of the tornadoes that ripped through neighboring counties, he felt funds should go to those who will need it in the event of another natural disaster.

"I think, personally, that we should help people who are hurting," Waller said. "That's WATCH and the Red Cross. I mean, my God, if we saw what just happened and can't take care of those people."

Mayor Al King concluded the discussion of the agency donation allocations by saying the totals would be re-evaluated.

"I think we need to look at all of these very carefully," he said.