Gaithersburg to reconsider nonprofit grants -- Gazette.Net







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When he first started, Morris Hudson said he was supporting his students with nothing but his advice and the money in his bank account.

That was 25 years ago, when he was helping four underprivileged black students at Albert Einstein High School raise their grade point averages and stay out of trouble in his spare time.

Today, Hudson’s program — Brothers Reaching Out to Help Each Reach Success, or BROTHERS — has meetings each week at Gaithersburg High School where at least 30 students, most of them black and from low-income families, meet for everything from tutoring and volunteer opportunities to free bus passes. Much of that effort and its growth is supported by more than $50,000 in city funding — money he’s not expected to receive fully this year.

Hudson and his program are at the heart of a debate in Gaithersburg about how city funding for nonprofits and community service organizations is allocated and how to share the city’s wealth.

For the upcoming fiscal year, the city received $144,522 in requests for funding for school-based youth grants alone, according to city records. On May 8, the mayor and City Council approved $100,000 in funding.

For safety net services, the city received $620,653 in requests for funding from various groups that provide homeless assistance, work force development and mental health services to the people of Gaithersburg, according to city records. On May 8, the mayor and City Council approved $587,644.

Hudson’s group, which is part of the larger Family Services, Inc., was denied its full request for funding this year by a city committee. He asked for $50,000, and is set to receive $30,787. Last year, the city gave him $52,070 and $44,800 the year before, according to budget figures.

The mayor and City Council have asked administrators to reconsider their recommendations for funding BROTHERS and to see if Catholic Charities’s Spanish Catholic Center — another program that’s historically been given city funds to run its work force training program — can be a part of a $29,653 job development project, originally slated for the nonprofit Workforce Solutions Group of Montgomery County.

A city committee also was asked to re-evaluate a request by Summit Hall Elementary School for nearly $5,000 in funding for a new afterschool program.

This comes despite concerns raised at a May 8 council session that funding these programs each year is tantamount to creating entitlements for some groups.

“We try to not make them a fixture or line item in the budget,” said J Persensky, a member of the Community Advisory Committee, the group that makes grant recommendations to the Mayor and City Council. Each year, two committees review written proposals by organizations then creates grant recommendations based on how effective they believe the program will be.

Persenky said part of his committee’s aim this year was to fund new programs in hopes of reaching underserved populations. He said giving funding to longstanding programs could undermine that effort.

City Councilman Michael A. Sesma pointed out that no organizations were given exactly the amount of funding they asked for this year.

City administrators noted BROTHERS was not given its full funding, in part, because the group failed to provide evidence of its effectiveness along with its request. Hudson later submitted this information.

Hudson said an example of his success is that all 38 seniors in his program last year currently are enrolled in college.

Mayor Sidney Katz said the city has about $200,000 in additional funding to support such organizations and should reconsider Hudson’s request. He said while groups like Hudson’s and Catholic Charities shouldn’t have to rely on city funds, they often do.

“We don’t want these organizations to go out of business,” he said.

Contributions from the city’s Community Services budget is set to increase next year, from $753,600 from this current fiscal year to $789,100 next year. City officials are slated to approve the full $51.74 million fiscal 2013 budget in June.