Pittsfield human service organizations take hit under mayor's budget

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PITTSFIELD — Mayor Linda M. Tyer's fiscal 2017 budget eliminates city funding for up to 17 human service organizations, some of which have received support for a number of years.

The move apparently reallocated to other areas of the budget $123,000 being considered for the organizations, which had gone through the city's review process this spring under the Human Services Advisory Council and the Community Development office.

The city contributions were cut during late budget changes that included adding funding for the Police Department in light of a rash of shooting incidents and to address other fiscal pressures facing the city.

A total of $154,500 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding to the city is expected to be distributed among about eight organizations, pending final federal Department of Housing and Urban Development approval, but the city's typical annual supplemental funding for the nonprofits was eliminated.

"There are two pools of human services money," said Community Development Director Janis Akerstrom. She said that only about eight organizations or programs were determined eligible for funding under the CDBG guidelines, while other programs were in line to possibly receive a total of about $123,000 in city funds. The latter allocations were cut.

Akerstrom said she has contacted each of the affected organizations to explain the situation or has left messages. The final decisions concerning the city funding, she added, won't be determined until the City Council approves the fiscal 2017 spending plan.

Tyer could not be reached for comment on the human services funding.

Hilary Greene, who directs the Berkshire Immigrant Center, was informed by Akerstrom of the cuts. The center had requested $10,000 for next year, Greene said, up from $8,000 received for fiscal 2016.

She said the organization has received city funding since 1997. The center expected to use the funds for legal costs associated with helping recent immigrants obtain green cards, she said, and apply for U.S. citizenship and related services.

Under the city's budget process, organizations seeking human services funding submit proposals to the Human Services Advisory Council in February for review prior to the next July-to-June fiscal year.

Green said all of the organizations applying for support went through the application process, including meetings before the advisory council, before being notified last week of the reductions.

"Normally, about now we would hear how much we would be receiving," she said.

The city received funding proposals this spring totalling $515,765, according to an email sent to the organizations shortly before the public meeting process began. The city last year budgeted $276,000 in city and CDBG funding to organizations providing services in Pittsfield.

Greene said she plans to attend the City Council's hearing on the Community Development Department budget on June 13 to lobby for reinstatement of the city funding, and she expects representatives from other organizations that applied will attend as well.

"I'm sort of holding some hope the funds will be restored during the [June 13] hearing," she said.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.

At a glance ...

Here is a list of Pittsfield's general fund distributions to human service programs in fiscal 2016.

Brien Center - Patrick Miller Youth Substance Abuse: $24,401

Berkshire Nursing Families: $4,000

Berkshire Immigrant Center (M.I.R.A.): $8,000

Brigham Center - Counseling: $6,932

Elder Services: $8,500

Community Access to the Arts (CATA): $2,000

IS183 - Learning Through Arts: $4,000

Berkshire Humane Society: $2,100

Christian Center - Life Skills: $12,000

UCP - Life Skills/ Advocacy: $4,700

UCP - Fun Club: $2,000

Nutrition Center: $3,000

NAMI of Berkshire County: $6,137

Kids Place: $7,000

Salvation Army - Bridging the Gap: $8,400

SIOGA - Community Center: $1,000

YMCA - Marilyn Hamilton Program: $10,000

Child Care of the Berkshires - Early Education: $7,431

Total: $121,601


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