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Wichita City Council members had a lengthy discussion Tuesday about an expected 50 percent cut in community services block grant funding for 2014.
The city's grant will be reduced to about $532,000. That forced a city review committee to recommend the elimination of block grant funding for neighborhood city halls, summer youth activity camps and Project Access, which helps in providing health care to low-income residents.
Housing and Community Services Director Mary K. Vaughn said the review committee looked at the purpose of the block grant program, and decided the funding should go to employment programs and services to help low-income people in finding and keeping jobs. That led to the jobs programs getting priority for the funding.
Council members James Clendenin and Lavonta Williams said they received notice of the situation late last week. Clendenin said "it's a lot to digest in four days."
Mayor Carl Brewer said there will be time to decide what to do for the 2014 budget. Vice-Mayor Janet Miller said the city is working to identify best practices for the neighborhood city halls, and she is committed to finding a way to keep them open. Vaughn expressed a hope that the city's parks and recreation department would find a way to continue the summer activity camps for youth.
Council members heard comments from residents of Planeview and other neighborhoods who want to keep the neighborhood city halls in operation. They said the city halls provide computer access for adults and youth to help them find jobs and gain access to educational and community services.
The application for the block grant funding is due Friday, but Vaughn said the city can amend its budget later as discussions continue on the community programs that will be affected. Council member Jeff Longwell said there's a 20 percent leeway the city can work with, and there can be discussions on how the neighborhood city halls should be funded.
Longwell recommended leaving some funding for the neighborhood city halls and Project Access, with funding from another block grant program to help with the operations of the city's Career Development Office. That office administers the employment programs and the block grant funding.
Council members agreed to make the adjustments in the budget for the CSBG funds to keep programs going through the end of the year, with more discussions later on funding the services for 2014. The council then voted to approve the grant application with those adjustments.