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Sedgwick County to warn organizations of possible funding cuts

Any 2016 funding cuts to the Child Advocacy Center, which is located in the former Lincoln Elementary building, “would be a significant negative impact on our ability to serve children and families in a time of crisis,” the center’s executive director said.
Any 2016 funding cuts to the Child Advocacy Center, which is located in the former Lincoln Elementary building, “would be a significant negative impact on our ability to serve children and families in a time of crisis,” the center’s executive director said. File photo

Several local organizations will receive letters soon warning them of possible reductions in funding from Sedgwick County.

Fourteen agencies that received from $5,000 to more than $825,000 in 2015 will be “put on notice” that they may receive less in 2016, County Manager William Buchanan said during a staff meeting Tuesday.

The county is reconsidering all of the funding agreements as it approaches a new budget year.

The notices come on the heels of a proposal by some county commissioners to end five-year funding agreements with the Sedgwick County Zoo, Exploration Place and the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition. The commission is expected to vote Wednesday on whether it will give itself until Sept. 1 to decide that. The current deadline to end the funding agreements for the following year is June 1.

The other 14 agencies don’t necessarily have funding contracts with the county, Buchanan said. Instead, they rely on year-to-year agreements or inclusion in the county’s budgeting process.

The organizations that will receive the letters, with their 2015 funding amounts:

▪ Child Advocacy Center, $205,000

▪ Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission, $5,000

▪ Kansas African American Museum, $172,827

▪ Kansas Junior Livestock, $21,771

▪ Mediation Center, $8,000

▪ Mid-American Minority Business Development Council, $10,000

▪ Nonprofit Chamber of Service, $20,000

▪ Sedgwick County Extension Office, $825,481

▪ Sedgwick County Fair, $29,427

▪ South Central Kansas Economic Development District, $83,875

▪ Wichita Area Technical College, $793,000

▪ Wichita Arts Council, $14,013

▪ Wichita Festivals, $10,000

▪ Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, $90,218

For nine of the organizations, funding can be terminated via a 30-day written notice, according to information distributed at Tuesday’s staff meeting. Funding for four can be changed during the county’s annual budgeting process. The other is a sponsorship agreement for the River Festival.

The letter invites the organizations to address county commissioners about funding during the board’s regular 9 a.m. Wednesday meetings and at two public budget hearings. The hearings are at 9 a.m. July 29 and 6 p.m. Aug. 6. All the meetings are on the third floor of the Sedgwick County Courthouse, 525 N. Main.

The 2016 budget will be adopted Aug. 12.

Commission Chairman Richard Ranzau said the letters are a step toward addressing a $10 million to $12 million county deficit. “We have to put everybody on notice that … things may change,” he said. “It’s good business to give people a heads up.”

Commissioner Dave Unruh suggested there were other means to eliminate portions of the perceived deficit.

Notices are expected to be sent out by week’s end.

Potential impact

Diana Schunn, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center, said Tuesday she was unaware of any plans to cut funding in 2016. If that did happen, “it would be a significant negative impact on our ability to serve children and families in a time of crisis,” she said.

The center, which in the past has struggled to obtain funding from Sedgwick County, receives two separate county grants: a $120,000 grant that pays employee salaries and provides services and an $85,000 occupancy grant to pay for utilities and similar expenses.

It also receives $85,000 occupancy grants from the city and the state, Schunn said. The agency is about to complete a capital campaign to move to the former Lincoln Elementary School building by early 2016, she said. It can no longer stay in the Finney State Office Building, she said, because the Kansas Department of Children and Families will vacate the building later in 2015.

Schunn said she understands the commissioners’ decision to review funding for county agencies.

“I think any time we ask for government dollars, we need to be fiscally responsible for that request,” she said.

The Wichita Arts Council receives approximately $14,000 from the county, which it uses to provide seed money for start-up art projects, president Arlen Hamilton said. It also receives about $6,000 from the city, he said.

“Without us being there to provide that start, many of these things would never get off the ground, and we’d end up with more of a Soviet-style society than the bright, colorful and educational environment that we get to live in instead,” Hamilton said.

The Arts Council has some “highly visible” projects – such as the Outdoor Sculpture WalkAbout in Old Town and an annual art awards ceremony – that attract the attention of private donors, he said. But for projects such as the North End Urban Arts Festival, county funding is essential to provide a portion of start-up costs, he said.

Hamilton said he met with Ranzau a few months ago and was told the Arts Council might receive a funding cut in 2016. He said he’s “completely open” to the process.

“If our funding is cut, Wichita is going to be a less creative and innovative place, because we will not have those funds to promote creativity and innovation in Wichita,” he said. “We truly believe it’s an economic development tool. … We have to do something to be attractive to the region.”

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