|Board members and volunteers for the Menifee Valley Boys & Girls Club gathered in November at the site of the planned facility, which includes basketball courts and classrooms (below) and much more.|
The Menifee City Council on Wednesday voted not to consider financial support for the Menifee Valley Boys & Club until the next fiscal year -- leaving the organizing group well short of the funds needed to open the club's doors.
The club has cleared several hurdles in organizing itself over the last year and a half. This includes the selection of a board of directors, chaired by former City Council member Sue Kristjansson. The group has received approval from the regional Boys & Girls Club of America office, was approved for 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status, and was given a $1 a year lease of the former Menifee Elementary School by the Menifee Union School District.
Now, as Kristjansson explained to council members Wednesday night, the only thing keeping the club from opening is a lack of funds needed to qualify for the hiring of an executive director.
"We're ready to launch," said Kristjansson, who had hoped the club would be serving the youth of the community in January. "We have the facility, we have a bus for transportation, we have the volunteers. We have many of the things most clubs don't have in place at the beginning. But we need an executive director. We have 12 members on the board and we all have full-time jobs. This is something we need to move forward."
According to Kristjansson, the club has more than $80,000 in donations so far. This includes $40,000 from the national Boys & Girls Club, $40,000 from Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley, and about $7,000 in private donations. Her request to the city council, then, was $60,000 in funding to qualify for the executive director hire and complete the planning needed to open the facility.
Kristjansson and fellow board member Bill Zimmerman described the potential benefits of the club, which Kristjansson said has generated great interest among residents in the before- and after-school and weekend programs it would offer. Board member Eric Kronke read a letter from Dr. Jonathan Greenberg, superintendent of the Perris Union High School District, citing the benefits to the entire community of such a program.
After considerable discussion, the council voted 3-2 to direct staff to place a line item in the 2014-15 city budget for $60,000 to help fund the club. Mayor Scott Mann pointed out that because that budget won't be approved until mid-June, council members would have plenty of time to consider whether to keep that line item in the budget.
"I'm generally in support of causes like this," Mann said. "I'm just not convinced $60,000 is the amount that should be budgeted. My suggestion is to build this into the budget for 2014-15 and address it at that time."
"No one on this council is more conservative than me," Denver said. "But this group would address a portion of the community that is really under-served. If you talked about awarding this amount every year, I would vote no. But this is start-up money to get the club open."
Council member Wallace Edgerton voted against the motion to add the item to next year's budget. He expressed concern that helping to fund a nonprofit organization would set a dangerous precedent.
"I have a lot of consternation about any of these types of programs getting money from the general fund," Edgerton said. "It's a great cause, but it's one of many great causes. I will fight for grant money for you, but I can't support this."
Kristjansson said the group has applied for grant money. Interim city manager Rob Johnson said that the city traditionally splits the approximately $65,000 in Community Development Block Grant money it is eligible for annually among four or five groups. Even if the Boys & Girls Club got its share, it still wouldn't be nearly enough.
Speaking against the request, resident Anne Pica said the city should not use taxpayer money to help fund a club that should be raising its own funds. In defense of the request, Zimmerman said that the funding would only help boost the club's bank account to qualify for the hiring of the executive director, and that membership fees would soon begin to generate income.
Speaking in support of the group's request for immediate funds, Fuhrman referred to the council's approval moments earlier -- with he being the only no vote -- to approve staff's recommendation for budget adjustments creating or reclassifying eight staff positions. This increase in salary payments was justified by the report of an additional $3 million generated in the first six months of the fiscal year, primarily through building permits and code enforcement fines.
"I just saw the city spend 30 times what this group is asking for on budget adjustments," said Fuhrman, factoring in the total salaries of the new and reclassified staff positions. "I consider this request an investment in the future. If you don't approve this, it takes the Boys & Girls Club to a screeching halt."
That remains to be seen, but it appears certain the club won't be opening any time soon. Fundraising efforts continue, but there's a long road ahead.