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Published: Wednesday, 11/8/2006

Sylvania agencies scramble after losing funding

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

In the wake of a decision by two Sylvania Township trustees to discontinue funding for some community agencies, donations have been secured for a band trip to Woodstock, Ont., and for a family-friendly New Year's Eve celebration.

However, the future of some community activities remains uncertain, and at least one agency has decided to discontinue services if its funding request is denied.

Money to help pay for Sylvania high school band members to travel to Woodstock, Sylvania's Sister City, for a Nov. 18 Santa Claus Parade is being provided by residents in Woodstock, and funds for First Light Sylvania have been donated by the Moses-Schlachter Group, Inc.

First Light's request for $1,500 and the Sylvania Area Sister City Commission's request for $6,250 were rejected recently after Trustee Carol Contrada's motion to allocate the funds failed to receive a second from trustees Pam Hanley or DeeDee Liedel. Mrs. Hanley and Mrs. Liedel, who contend that it's inappropriate to use taxpayer dollars for such activities, didn't support Mrs. Contrada's motion to allocate $5,000 for the Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce either.

Eddie Boggs, organizer of First Light Sylvania, said the $1,500 donation was like an answered prayer. The generous donation shows that people believe in the event, but he said community agencies shouldn't have to rely solely on private support. He suggested that trustees should conduct a townshipwide survey on the issue of whether tax dollars should be spent on community activities. The survey, he said, would ask "what do the people want, how do the people feel."

In a letter to Mr. Boggs, Richard Moses, president of Moses-Schlachter on Centennial Road, said he was "very upset" when Mrs. Hanley and Mrs. Liedel failed to support funding for First Light. "When I was a Sylvania Township Trustee, I always felt it appropriate to give Sylvania Township taxpayer money back to the Sylvania Township taxpayers. This is in no way a charity event but purely a community activity, and in my opinion, a darn good one," Mr. Moses stated in his letter.

Mrs. Contrada, who agrees with Mr. Moses' sentiment, said she's concerned by the shift in philosophy about supporting community agencies with taxpayer dollars. "The township has a long history of giving taxpayer dollars back to the people," she said, to make the Sylvania community a better place to live.

The other trustees' decision has had a "real chilling effect" on the community, she said. Representatives of some agencies are reluctant to challenge the direction of the township, she said, because they fear that speaking up might compromise their chances of obtaining funds from the township.

John Bolster, president of the Sylvania Area Sister City Commission, who said he is "extremely disappointed" by the two trustees' decision, noted that Sylvania Township trustees, along with Sylvania city officials, were involved in setting up the Sister City Commission in 1992.

The band trip is a cultural exchange that will involve about 400 Sylvania students, Mr. Bolster said. After learning last week that the commission's funding request was denied, he called his counterpart in Woodstock and told him about the financial situation. "He said he would send a check for $6,000," said Mr. Bolster. "It is a pleasant surprise that the people in Woodstock would support the band trip. I just wish our own community would have supported us."

The Sister City Commission will discuss the funding issue to determine how to proceed without financial support from the township, Mr. Bolster said. The commission has asked the township for $2,000 for 2007 activities.

The shift in philosophy by the two trustees has raised concerns from other agencies that have applied for funding from the township for 2007 activities, such as Sylvania Community Services, the umbrella agency for the Sylvania Senior Center; a child care program, and community education classes. The SCS's board has decided that it will cancel the community education classes unless it secures $8,000 from the city and $12,000 from the township, said Claire A. Proctor, SCS executive director.

About 2,000 people sign up for classes through the program each year, she said, but it isn't a break-even venture. The SCS seeks sponsors and conducts fund-raising efforts, too, but the $20,000 is needed from the city and township to underwrite expenses, such as publishing 20,000 booklets three times a year that list the community education classes.

SCS's application for funds makes it clear that without the funding, the program will be discontinued, Mrs. Proctor said.

Trustee Contrada said she hopes that the Sylvania Community Services lets trustees know about the board's decision to cancel the program unless funding is secured. She said that she views the SCS board's decision as a "fiscal reality," not as a threat.

Trustees won't consider the 2007 funding requests until after it conducts budget workshops; the workshops aren't scheduled to be completed until the end of November, Mrs. Hanley said.



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