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Wauwatosa Community Groups Scramble to Make up HUD Funding Cuts

The Hart Park Senior Center might have to cut programming or staffing after a 21-percent reduction in community development block grant funding.

The Hart Park Senior Center might have to cut staffing and programs as the result of a federal government decision to slash community development block grant funding to Wauwatosa by 21 percent.

The Senior Center, which partners with the West Suburban YMCA, runs social, wellness, and educational services for senior citizens at 7300 Chestnut St. Merry Johnson, Senior Center director, said the center sponsors 175 to 200 individual classes per month for local seniors, working largely to combat their isolation and improve their physical and mental health.

“There may very well be program and staffing cuts,” she said. “But there may be other options.” Maybe, she said, someone would come forward with a donation to make up for the funding loss. “We will be looking at creative options,” she said. “We have yet to figure it out.”

HUD cuts passed along

Overall, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the city $864,509, which was 21 percent less than the amount the city assumed it would get when setting community development block grant funding levels for 2012, a process that took place last year.

Community groups ranging from the to Badger Association for Blind are affected, as are some city departments, such as the . HUD notified the city of the decrease in already approved funding levels in the last few weeks, Jen Ferguson, assistant city planner, said.

Ferguson attributed the HUD drops to congressional and presidential budget cuts of the HUD. According to media accounts, President Barack Obama signed into law a HUD budget that included a $3.8 billion cut, 9% of the agency’s overall funding.

The Senior Center had been awarded $105,362, but now will only get $83,600. Sixty percent of its budget comes from HUD.

But Johnson also blamed the HUD, not the city of Wauwatosa.

The city Budget and Finance Committee voted 5-1 this week to approve the reduced HUD funding levels but could not stop the cuts, Johnson said. “The city of Wauwatosa has been fantastically supportive of us,” she said.

Ald. Pete Donegan cast the dissenting vote at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting this week. But Ferguson said Donegan’s stated desire to see more allocation of funding to organizations in public service programs wasn’t possible because of HUD funding caps, which only allow 15% of the funding to go toward public service programs. The other portion is allotted for administration and planning (capped at 20%), and public facilities, economic development, and rehabilitation (the rest). Donegan did not return a call for comment.

The action this week, Ferguson said, by the committee was basically perfunctory — the city had already decided funding percentages for various groups in 2011 and decided to reduce everyone’s allotment by the 21 percent across the board.

She also said the HUD agency uses a complex formula based on updated census data and other criteria, such as age of a community’s housing stock, to determine a community’s allotment. Still, Ferguson said the cut in overall award was the largest drop she has seen in the last four years.

“The bigger meeting was when we set the funding levels in the past,” she said. “This meeting was really just to adjust the originally approved levels to what the groups are actually getting.”

The matter now goes to the full Council. The other funding awards are:

Administration and planning:

  • Metro Fair Housing, $26,000, down from $33,000

Public service programs ($129,676 total)

  • ARC Milwaukee, $13,800, down from $17,963
  • Elena's House, $9,800, down from $12,377
  • Tosa Cares, $3,250, down from $4,124
  • Interfaith, $12,800, down from $16,496
  • Tosa Food Pantry, $2,600, down from $3,314
  • PEP program, $3,826, down from $5,364

Public facilities, economic development, and rehabilitation ($708,833 total)

  • Water Mains in LMI, $67,387, down from $86,000
  • Greek Orthodox Manor, $75,000, down from $96,000
  • Badger Association for the Blind, $12,500, down from $16,000
  • Lutheran Home, $190,000, down from $240,000
  • Economic Development, $250,000, down from $320,000
  • Health Department, $19,000, down from $24,000
  • Rebuilding Together Greater Milwaukee, $94,946, down from $120,000.

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