Madison is revamping the process for how community service agencies seek city funding and reprioritizing which services are most important.
"What we're doing is trying to make a better process," says Bill Clingan, the city's community development division director. "We're reevaluating our priorities and asking, what do we want to suggest the city spend its money on?"
Every two years, the city asks community service agencies to submit funding requests. Clingan says the city gives about $4 million to these agencies each year.
In 2009, it funded 82 groups, including the Goodman Community Center, the Rainbow Project, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, the Respite Center, the West Madison Senior Coalition and the YWCA, according to the city budget. Clingan did not know how many agencies applied for funding.
Money is currently given in seven categories: child care, support to families, senior services, youth services, domestic violence and sexual assault, community assistance/access, and neighborhood organizing and capacity building.
The Community Services Committee is looking at whether it should change these categories. It has yet to make its final recommendation, but is considering adding adult workforce preparedness and employment, and changing the names of other categories.
"It just seems to make sense that things change," Clingan says. "And the city isn't doing its due diligence if it doesn't look at its funding priorities."
The city will also look at its criteria for awarding money to human service agencies and seek to hold them more accountable.
"What's most important?" Clingan asks. "In youth programs, are middle school programs more important than the youth courts? Or are job and training services for youth more important?"
Ald. Michael Schumacher approves the push for more accountability among service providers. But he's also proposed an amendment to the city's budget seeking an additional $370,000 for youth programs. The city's share of community service funding is relatively small compared to the federal, state and county contributions. But as those governments cut back, it's important for the city to pick up the slack, Schumacher says.
On his city-sponsored blog, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz complained about amendments to add funding for community services, saying, "I'm not aware of any community service agencies that asked for the increase. In fact, many of them wrote me to say they were happy with the budget I introduced."
But Schumacher says in these tough times, it's important to show the city is committed to social services: "As we're asking for more accountability, we're actually making more of a financial commitment."
Clingan expects the Common Council to vote on the recommendations early next year. The requests for funding proposals will go out in the spring and summer to be awarded for the 2011-12 cycle.