By David Slone
WARSAW — How the city plans to help nonprofits financially in 2024 is more defined in this year’s budgeting process than in past years.
On the Warsaw Common Council’s agenda Tuesday night, Sept. 5, was discussion about the nonprofit contracts for next year, with no action being taken.
Mayor Joe Thallemer explained that Councilwoman Cindy Dobbins has been working on the nonprofit contracts for the 2024 budget.
“If you remember, earlier in the year we had discussions about realigning how we help the community by helping the nonprofits in our community. We had several meetings and good discussion and we settled this year on asking for requests from nonprofits that provide specific services to the city,” he said.
Those services include public transportation, animal control, environmental protection – lakes and streams, assistance for victims of domestic violence and administrative support for affordable housing and rental assistance.
“With that, we changed our application process. Cindy has … received applications for these specific services. Again, the idea is these are services we feel we’re required to provide but otherwise can’t do on our own,” Thallemer said.
Dobbins provided a chart of who applied, how much their 2023 funding was, how much they requested for 2024 and the 2024 recommendation, as well as what their specific category of service is.
“It’s a little bit more defined than it has been in the past,” Thallemer stated.
Dobbins said, “This year I actually felt pretty good after going through this because I felt like we were really addressing the needs of a large number of our citizens through some of the agencies that we will be contracting with.”
Of the $250,375 in funding the city gave in 2023, Dobbins noted that $53,930 of that was toward agencies the city is not doing this year for 2024 and that amount will be applied toward some of the other agencies.
“We have some significant increases, one of which was the Animal Welfare League,” she said.
In 2023, the city gave the AWL $35,000. The 2024 request and the 2024 recommendation is $70,000.
The other items of significance, she said, were under Main Street Warsaw. The 2023 funding was $31,100. The 2024 request and recommendation are for $61,000, which includes $30,000 for a downtown coordinator, which was a recommendation stemming from the Hyett-Palma study of the downtown.
Also, per the Hyett-Palma recommendation, the Main Street Warsaw Facade Grant program was $25,000 in 2023 with a requested and recommended amount of $50,000 for 2024.
Dobbins said the facade grant has been at $25,000 for over 20 years and costs for improving the downtown buildings has gone up considerably. Increasing the facade grant amount to $50,000 will allow for grants of up to $10,000, she said.
One of the new applicants for funding was Safe Harbor Child Advocacy. They didn’t receive any funding in 2023, requested $10,000 for 2024 and $5,000 is being recommended for next year.
“It really falls under the victims of domestic violence, although it’s dealing primarily with children that perhaps have been in a home that has experienced domestic violence,” Dobbins said, adding that Safe Harbor does a lot of counseling with children.
Thallemer said the 2024 recommendations from Dobbins do not bind the council to those amounts. As the city gets further down the road with its budget, he said the recommendations could be cut if necessary.
Dan Woods, a member of the AWL Board of Directors, spoke to the council about the number of animals the shelter has taken in, specifically from the city of Warsaw.
“We’ve finally gotten to the point where we break down every month where animals come from. Last year was the first year we could do it,” Woods said.
In 2022, AWL had 1,660 dogs and cats – and one pig – dropped off. Out of those, 480 came from within the city limits of Warsaw, he said. About 400 of those were dropped off by people, with the remaining dropped off by Warsaw Animal Control Officer Justin “Tug” Curtis.
“And we had a couple hoarding incidents where we had 20 animals at one time dropped off,” Woods said.
Last month, AWL had 42 animals dropped off from within the city limits, with Curtis bringing in four.
“We’ve got the same problem that everybody does, and that’s wages. We basically have people working for $9 to $13 an hour, scooping up after dogs and cats all day long, and we have really worked hard at getting the wages up, but it’s a tough deal,” Woods said.
The projected budget for AWL for 2024 is about $616,000, with $375,000 of that for wages. “So we have to run a pretty tight ship to just cover everything,” Woods stated.
The AWL still has about $400,000 left on its new building to pay off, which is down by about half.
Dobbins said one thing that made an impact on her was that while wages do need to get up there a bit, the AWL employees have to work holidays because the animals still need taken care of.
“The only reason you work at the Animal Welfare League – it’s not for the $9-$13 – those people just love the animals. That’s it. They just love them. And that’s the only thing that keeps us going, is the fact that they’ll take our little bit of money but they’ll stick in there,” Woods said.
Thallemer said he knows the AWL has many donors and does a lot of fundraisers. Of the approximate $550,000 budget in 2022, Thallemer noted only about $180,000 was from tax dollars. “It’s a pretty big gap there,” he said.
Woods said that’s been their biggest challenge: Expenses went up, but the animal shelter never really got that much more in tax dollars. The county and city have stepped up continuously, but other communities in the county flat out just say no, but the AWL still takes in the animals, he said.
He said the AWL runs about $3,000 a month in the red just from what their normal income is, so they have to have a fundraiser every six months to make up the difference.
Woods said he can’t complain about the community as it always steps up. He gave praise to Curtis for his help to the shelter, even on his days off.
Thallemer noted that the animal shelter provides a service that the city is unable to provide.
Councilman Mike Klondaris asked when the council had to make a decision on the funding recommendations. Clerk-Treasurer Lynne Christiansen said the public hearing for the city’s 2024 budget will be at their Sept. 18 meeting and the adoption will be at the Oct. 2 meeting.
In other business, the council approved:
- The transfer of $8,000 from contractual repairs and maintenance into repair and maintenance supplies to cover the cost of new printers and unexpected expenses, as requested by Oakwood Cemetery sexton Hal Heagy.
- The transfer of $7,000 from Human Resources Professional Services to HR office equipment to purchase printers and equipment for employee photo ID cards, as requested by HR Director Denny Harlan. The city is going to have employee IDs for all of its employees.
- A resolution establishing deer nuisance zones areas within the city’s boundaries, as requested by Jeff Grose, councilman, mayor-elect and Deer Task Force chair.