The pro-fluoride group Wichitans for Healthy Teeth said Friday it has received commitments from private donors for $1.35 million for start-up costs of adding fluoride to Wichita’s water supply should voters approve that measure on Nov. 6.
That‘s a little more than halfway toward the group’s goal of covering most, if not all, of the city’s estimated $2.3 million fluoridation start-up costs with private funds, said Kim Moore, president of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund.
“These are private contributions that will offset costs to taxpayers,” Moore said. “We are pleased that several generous funders have stepped forward to demonstrate a commitment to the health of Wichitans, and especially happy that Wichitans are that much closer to realizing the oral health benefits and cost savings that come from community water fluoridation.”
Moore wouldn’t disclose the names of the donors who have made commitments.
“Private funders have different legal restrictions during election periods that prevent them from coming forward, so they remain anonymous primarily for that reason at this time,” he said, “but post election , they’ll each make their own announcements about this, and we anticipate working with the city of Wichita to get this funding to the city.”
Most of the start-up costs would go toward facility changes for fluoride storage and the placement of equipment, Moore said.
If voters approve adding fluoride to the city’s water, the Wichita City Council would have to decide who would pick up any of the remaining start-up costs, if any, and how the costs would be apportioned to residential and commercial users. None of those decisions have been finalized.
Moore said other donors have indicated they will provide additional funds after the election, but he didn’t know how much.
“We’re hoping to make what’s a good deal an absolute bargain for the city of Wichita,” Moore said.
Wichitans for Healthy Teeth is a volunteer coalition of dentists, doctors and community members who advocate for adding fluoride to Wichita’s water.
Don Landis, of Wichitans Opposed to Fluoridation, said raising the start-up costs to fluoridate Wichita’s water would be ”decent” of the group.
“What they should do next is raise money to care for low-income children,” Landis said. “The General Accounting Office has issued numerous audits that say the number-one reason that low-income children have poor dental health compared to children from the middle class and upper class is lack of access to dental care. If they really want to do something to improve the dental health of low-income children, which is the stated goal of Wichitans for Healthy Teeth, then they would see about that.”