Non-profits hit as City tightens belt

Posted on June 8, 2011 by Sonoma Valley Sun

In the first wave of cost cutting to close Sonoma’s projected $170,000 deficit, the City Council decided to reduce support to four non-profit groups by 12 percent.
The total outlay will be $123,200: the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley will receive $51,040; the Sonoma Community Center, $26,400; Vintage House, $26,400; and the Sonoma Ecology Center, $19,360.

The four groups have been designated “Tier 1” agencies, and have traditionally received grants to provide services the city might otherwise be responsible for through a parks and recreation department.

The approach, according to a 2009 policy statement, “has been proven to be cost effective, efficient, and flexible. Non-profit organizations which provide these recreational and community programs are expert at delivering some traditional services provided by city governments elsewhere.”

Each group requested an amount equal to its funding in the prior fiscal year. The amount of the reduction, 12 percent, is the Council’s goal to cut “non-essential services or programs” across the board.

As the Tier 1 groups essentially replace city services, taking a cut equal to other city departments “is equitable and fair,” said Cathy Swett, Sonoma Community Center executive director.

Still, the city allocations have been reduced dramatically over the past few years, Swett said, while services through the four groups have increased. “We’re all doing much more than we’ve ever done,” she said.

The agreement was made at a June 2 budget workshop. The budget will take formal shape at the City Council meeting on June 20, where other tough decisions will need to be made. Items up for review include public art programs, support for events such as Sonoma Jazz Plus and the Fourth of July parade, the city prosecutor’s office, the Visitor’s Bureau marketing campaign and free use of the Veterans Building for fundraisers.

City Manager Linda Kelly told the panel that city revenue is flat, and there is no expectation of improvement. “Economic recovery from the recession is proceeding slowly,” she reported. “The budget retains all current year public services, (but) we have planned for essentially no growth in services.”

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