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December 05. 2013 7:28PM

Non-profits seek grants through budget process

MANCHESTER — The leaders of 31 social service organizations lined up on Thursday to lobby for funding through the city's Community Improvement Program (CIP).

The hearings, held in the aldermanic chambers and attended by Mayor Ted Gatsas and other city officials, are an early step in the budget process for the 2015 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Most of the CIP budget goes toward funding road, infrastructure, building and park projects, but it also supports a roster of nonprofit groups.

The funding for the nonprofit groups comes almost exclusively from the federal government, in particular the Community Development Block Grant program.

Gatsas said it appears that the federal funding will be 10 percent lower than was for the 2014 budget, but he said definite numbers won't be available for at least another month.

"We'll be working through the requests," Gatsas said, adding that which programs to fund and by how much will be the subject of discussions with the aldermen.

Taken together, the organizations that made presentations Thursday are requesting nearly $2.1 million, an amount that far exceeds the likely CIP budget for public service projects.

In the current 2014 budget, approximately $985,000 in funding is being provided to nonprofit groups, which had requested $1.6 million.

Gatsas is also in the early stages of crafting the city budget for 2015. He said this budget will be especially challenging, due to fixed costs associated with pensions and retirement and a tax cap that will likely restrict the growth of the budget to slightly below 2 percent. The current budget had a 2.17 percent tax cap.

The nonprofits seeking city funding include Big Brothers Big Sisters, the YWCA, the Palace Theatre, the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success, and the Manchester Community Resource Center.

For most of the groups, the city funding will make up only a portion of their budgets.

The leaders of local agencies have noted that although the broader economy has improved, it remains fragile in the Manchester area.

"This year is going to be a real challenge," said Renie Denton, the executive director of the Manchester Community Resource Center, which recently moved into the newly renovated Odd Fellows Hall on Lake Avenue. "With supermarkets going out of business, all those folks are looking for employment and so many manufacturing companies require you to have a G.E.D. and reading and writing proficiency. Unfortunately, so many of our folks just don't have those skills."

The MCRC, which specializes in providing resources and training to low-income people, has requested to be level-funded at $65,000 in the next fiscal year.

"I know a lot of people might think the city is just funding all these low-income people, and it's one dollar after the next," Denton said. "But we're about providing a service that provides accountability, that has outcomes."tsiefer@unionleader.com


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