An advisory board that won Lawrence City Commission support this week has the potential to bring more fairness and efficiency to the process of distributing city funds to local social service programs.
An ordinance to create the new Social Service Funding Advisory Board got initial approval by city commissioners on Tuesday. The seven-member board would take over the duties of two inactive advisory boards that were supposed to make recommendations for distributing money from the city’s special alcohol fund and its housing trust funds. Requests for funds from the city’s general operating fund and its special recreation fund also would go through the new committee.
Having a single advisory board consider all requests has a number of advantages. One of the board’s first charges is to create a universal application for city funding, which would eliminate the need for agencies to make multiple requests from different city funds.
This will allow for better coordination in distributing funds. All requests will go through one board that knows exactly how much money each agency is getting from which city funds. The new board also will be better able to hold agencies accountable for the funds they receive by requiring reports on outcomes and agency performance.
The new system also should promote fairness by standardizing the application and distribution process. All the applications come to one place and are handled in the same way rather than going to different advisory boards or directly to city commissioners that handle the requests in different ways.
The bottom line is that the new advisory board will have a big-picture view of how city money is being used to achieve social service goals. The previous system had become a hodgepodge that may not have provided an even playing field for social service agencies seeking assistance or delivered the biggest bang for the city’s bucks.
The amount of money the city is able to commit to local service agencies will never be enough to cover all of the requests. For that reason, it’s important to direct that money carefully to try to meet the city’s most pressing needs.
Forming the new advisory board is a good attempt to bring order to a funding system that had become somewhat disorganized and ineffective. Both taxpayers and the agencies seeking money should benefit from the change.