Nonprofits that saw their funding cut in the Sedgwick County budget are vowing to try to continue programs without county support.
“It’s a tremendous letdown, but now I know that we need to move forward,” said Linda Eaves, executive director of the Kansas School for Effective Learning. “We have to find other funding sources.”
Two programs, a foster grandparent program by Catholic Charities and a GED program by KANSEL for at-risk youths, had multiple speakers oppose the cuts at the public budget hearings. County funding for both programs was eliminated.
“We are disappointed that ... the County’s funding of this wonderful program has been eliminated,” Mike Burrus, executive director of Catholic Charities, said in a statement.
The county’s foster grandparent program funding, about $23,000 in 2015, is about 4 percent of the program’s funding. But he said the program had used the county’s funding as a match to qualify for more than $210,000 in federal funds through the Corporation for National and Community Service.
“We are very much involved right now in hiring and training foster grandparents to be ready to serve as schools are beginning to open this fall,” Burrus said.
Eaves said the youth crime prevention program, which provides GED classes for at-risk youths ages 16 to 18, was solely funded by Sedgwick County.
“It’s not a program that can sustain itself without public support, foundation support or external giving,” Eaves said. “You don’t see any businesses on the street corner that are running GED preparation programs, because people who need these programs typically don’t have that kind of money.”
The program typically involves youth offenders and aims to reduce rates of re-offending.
“It’s very unfortunate there are some on the County Commission that don’t care about helping people in our community have second chances to education,” Eaves said.
Commissioner Jim Howell, who voted for the budget, said some community programs fall outside the role of county government.
“A lot of these organizations are overly dependent on Sedgwick County government for a major source of their funding,” Howell said. “I appreciate what they do, but they need to be diversifying their income stream from other sources.”
After the budget’s approval, there are still deep divisions on what Sedgwick County tax dollars should fund.
“People need to realize there are some things that are going to be OK and they got patched up and carry on, but it’s just sad,” Eaves said. “I think some folks really wanted some of their tax dollars to go to programs like this.”