Puyallup officials are on track to increase the amount of city money allocated to community social service groups in 2013.
Several City Council members indicated during a budget workshop Tuesday that they support setting the pot at $110,550 – about $5,500 more than this year – with the money split among groups including the Puyallup Food Bank and St. Francis House.
That’s well above the $55,000 the interim city manager had included in his preliminary 2013 city budget.
“I didn’t want to see the commitment (to these groups) go away. It’s the wrong time. The need is now,” Councilman John Palmer said after the session, which lasted about four hours and also included discussion of public works and parks spending.
But the money wouldn’t meet all the community needs or the funding requests submitted by local groups. The city received a total of $184,060 in social service requests for 2013.
Councilman John Hopkins said he isn’t opposed to increasing social service funding, but he said he’s not prepared to commit to it yet because there are other parts of the budget yet to be settled.
The council is in the midst of formulating a city budget for next year and will adopt it in November or December.
The preliminary budget, developed by the interim city manager and released in recent weeks, totals about $94 million, including a $35.5 million general operating fund.
Puyallup typically allocates some money from the general fund to social service groups in the community. The amount averaged about $53,200 annually from 2009 to 2011.
But during the budget process last fall, the council added another $50,000 for programs that provide assistance to homeless families, bringing the total to $105,000 in 2012. The increase came after the Puyallup Homeless Coalition lobbied for more funding.
The coalition last year asked the council to increase the social services funding over several years to an amount equal to 1 percent of the general fund. Using the preliminary 2013 general fund, that would be $355,000; the council didn’t agree to go that high.
Paula Anderson, chairwoman of the coalition, said Wednesday that she’s pleased the council seems poised to increase the community funding to more than this year’s level. Her group estimates there are several hundred people homeless in Puyallup any given day. And there are few shelter options.
“Those dollars are going to be well used. It’s going to be money well spent to try and help people who find themselves in the state of homelessness,” Anderson said. “We appreciate that.”
She helps run Homeward Bound in Puyallup, a program that aims to prevent homelessness among local families, primarily through rent and utility assistance. The group would receive $6,500 in city funding if the council adopts the funding plan discussed Tuesday – $13,500 less than it requested.
Terie Dembeck, who works with Anderson on Homeward Bound, said the group will seek other sources of funding, too. Many families are on the edge, and “it’s a step to prevention of homelessness – being able to help them out,” she said.
Along with homeless and housing programs, the city funding also would go to groups helping domestic violence survivors and youth.