Wauwatosa city services, including programs and events at the Hart Park Senior Center, may be in jeopardy due to proposed federal cuts in funding for the Community Development Block Grant program.
The 2018 budget proposed by President Donald Trump — which covers the fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018 — calls for the elimination of the CDBG program that provides communities with resources for unique community development needs.
Other services funded by the CDBG are food pantries, assisted living centers and other entities that provide housing and resources for seniors and people with special needs.
In the Wauwatosa 2017 city budget there is an estimated line item that has $885,000 appropriated from the CDBG, some of which is used to fund senior center activities. According to City Administrator Jim Archambo, the amount the city receives from the CDBG has remained constant in recent years.
"If we lose the CDBG funding in its entirety the funding for these programs evaporates," Alderman Joel Tilleson said. "If we lost the money there would have to be major changes to the many things it funds, including the senior center."
Programs managed by Rec Dept.
The senior programs at the Hart Park Senior Center have been managed by the Tosa Rec Department since the departure of facility manager Interfaith Older Adult Programs. The Milwaukee-based IOAP managed the facility for the past two years and decided not to renew its contract effective Dec. 31, 2016.
Tosa Rec also operates the senior programs and events that take place at city hall that are not funded through the CDBG.
"We have been working with the city on how best to move forward with the adult programs we manage," Director of Recreation Mike Wick said. "The (CDBG) does provide significant funding for the operation of the Senior Center at Hart Park."
Wick said since IOAP stepped aside at the end of last year that the membership at the Hart Park Senior Center has mobilized and provides staffing for events at tables and members are available to answer questions.
The city and Tosa Rec have been in discussions regarding adding a full-time position that would oversee the proposed two part-time positions that would manage both the Hart Park and the city hall senior events.
"We are making progress on exploring whether Tosa Rec can operate the senior center moving forward," Wauwatosa Mayor Kathy Ehley said. "If seniors are concerned about the future of the center at Hart Park they should contact their federal elected officials."
The city's elected officials may be doing some contacting of their own.
Tilleson has introduced a common council agenda item that calls for the drafting of a letter opposing the proposed cuts to be sent to U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner.
The proposal will be discussed at the April 11 meeting of the council's Government Affairs Committee.
Beginning in 1974, the CDBG program is one of the longest continuously-run programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The CDBG program provides annual grants on a formula basis to more than 1,200 state and local governments.
City officials have said that when allocating the CDBG funding, priority should be given to activities which benefit low- and moderate-income people.