FIRST ON 3: City considers United Way offer to control Social Services spending
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- At a Budget and Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday, the United Way offered to assume responsibility for and allocation of the city of Chattanooga's social services funds.
That portion of the city budget could total $700,000 to $1million. Representatives said they have spoken with the Chattanooga and Hamilton County mayors. The United Way proposed 2012 to be a trial year for the program and said they could do it at no cost to the city.
In allocating city funds, they said they would consider United Way member and non-member agencies, alike. And while making the argument that a healthy community goes beyond city boundaries, said they would not use Chattanooga funds for agencies in North Georgia.
District 4 Councilman Jack Benson, said he was "thrilled." Describing his time as head of the Boys and Girls Club, as agency that received funds from the United Way, and his time on the United Way board, he spoke highly of their procedures. Funding decisions are based on objective results, as explained by United Way representatives, with each agency proving their worthiness each year through non-profit agency funding applications.
For oversight purposes, Councilman Benson suggested 1 or 2 board members on the allocations committee be either Council members or appointed by the council. The United Way representatives suggested the possibility of one Council member on the board of directors.
Reaction was mixed. Council Chair Pam Ladd agreed with Benson and said this is an idea she had floated during the agency funding turmoil which followed the expiration of the city-county sales tax sharing agreement. She hoped aloud that this would be a way to get the politics out of this phase of the budget procedure.
Councilwoman Deborah Scott of District 1 had questions. Which agencies would be involved? Are all cities in the county contributing? How much in the county supporting? United Way representatives said, as of yet, they have no commitments.
District 7 Councilman Manny Rico said he agreed with the plan. He added, this very thing is what the United Way does. It is not something the city is good at and he would have no problem letting the professionals take care of it.
To his right, District 9 Councilman Peter Murphy differed and voiced perhaps the strongest opposition. First, he stated he is a regular contributor to the United Way and supports their mission, but added at the end of the day, this is tax money and the responsibility should remain with an elected body. If someone in his district is dissatisfied with the level of funding an agency gets, they should have the right to fire him, he said.
In the end, it was the consensus of the Budget and Finance Committee to continue discussions about the United Way's offer, though no official move was taken on.