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Toledo City Council wrestles with funding requests

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Toledo City Council heard requests for general fund money from two social service agencies on Monday, three days after Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz warned he would veto any more ordinances that seek to pull dollars from the general fund balance.

Representatives from Grace Community Center and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Ohio each requested $75,000 to help continue programming for youth. Councilmen Yvonne Harper, Cecelia Adams, and Larry Sykes all expressed their support for the funding requests during Monday’s committee meeting.

“Anything that we can do to support you financially, I think, is probably a really smart thing. Why? Because you don’t have enough money to do even what you are trying to accomplish right now,” Ms. Adams told the two organizations. “We’ve got to put our money where our mouths are, and right now the city hasn’t put its money behind education like it should.”

Other councilmen said they were hesitant to spend the city’s operating money on nonprofits.

“My hangup is not at all having to do with the great work that you all do every day and the services that you provide, but I am leery of reaching into general fund to fund organizations. ... My concern is that by opening this door and asking for money out of the general fund we’re going to see a number of organizations come forward and we simply don’t have the money and the means to be funding hundreds of organizations every year,” Nick Komives said.

RELATED: Mayor threatens vetoes over council’s general fund spending

Big Brothers Big Sisters wants $75,000 to help serve more than 80 high-risk youth in its “I am Somebody/I Count” program. A loss of other funding sources means that without the city’s help the program may have to disband, President and CEO Johnny Mickler, Sr., told council.

Grace Community Center wants $50,000 to pay for teachers and supplies to support its after-school tutoring program that serves kindergarten through fifth-grade students. The other $25,000 would go toward a STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — program for students in grades six, seven, and eight.

Mr. Komives said he understands the budget constraints facing the area’s numerous nonprofits, and he wants to see the city use more of the community block grant dollars it receives annually from the federal government instead of the general fund to help. Councilmen Sandy Spang and Gary Johnson agreed, and both said they’ll work to spend more CDBG money on neighborhood organizations than on city employee salaries in the future.

Andrew D. McElroy, 30, told council members Grace Community Center was his “safe haven” as a troubled youth. Its programming helped him graduate from Rogers High School, enroll in University of Toledo’s upward bound program, and attend Central State University. He implored council members to approve the funding request.

“We need organizations like this to help our youth and keep them out of jail and keep them out of the funeral homes and to get them into college,” he said.

Ms. Harper said she intends to bring the funding requests to a vote at the Sept. 11 city council meeting. A majority vote would send the proposal to the mayor’s desk as approved by council. If he vetoes it, council would then need nine votes to override his decision.

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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