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Archive for Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Editorial: Shelter support

The Lawrence Community Shelter is worthy of city support, but there’s a limit to how much financial backing taxpayers should be expected to deliver.

September 24, 2013

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In for a penny, in for a pound.

The city of Lawrence has invested too much in the Lawrence Community Shelter to now allow the shelter to fall into a serious financial bind. For that reason, it makes sense for the Lawrence City Commission to look favorably on a plan to finance a $725,000 loan to the shelter. However, it also makes sense for commissioners to make sure that loan is structured in a way that protects taxpayers and maintains the independence of the nonprofit shelter.

Shelter officials approached the commission about their plight last week. Renovations to the structure that serves as the shelter’s new home in eastern Lawrence cost about $600,000 more than expected, forcing the shelter to take out a short-term loan at a local bank. That loan is coming due soon, and the shelter needs another $100,000 to repair the structure’s roof. “Truthfully,” the shelter’s treasurer told commissioners, “if you turn this down, I’m not sure what we will do.”

There may be room to question the financial management that brought the shelter to this point, but the first priority is to try to come up with a short-term solution. To do that, commissioners directed city staff to draw up documents for the loan but also looked for ways to protect the city if the shelter ends up defaulting on that loan. Putting the loan in the form of a traditional mortgage on the real estate, would be one way to do that, and a couple of commissioners favored that strategy. However, other commissioners said having a mortgage with the city might hamper the shelter’s ability to get bank financing for other projects and its ability to attract continued charitable support. Having the city hold a mortgage on the property, one commissioner said, might send the message that “the city is in charge” and willing to take a larger role in managing the shelter — which is not what the city or its taxpayers should want.

To their credit, shelter officials have made significant strides since moving to the new facility late last year. In the first eight months at the new site, 61 shelter residents have moved into full-time jobs thanks to a 13-week program designed to prepare them for the workforce. The number of police calls to the facility also have dropped to just 11 in that time, compared to 64 during the same period a year ago when the shelter was downtown.

The shelter certainly is worthy of city support, but as they move forward on this loan, city commissioners should be careful to protect taxpayers and also send the message to shelter officials that there is a limit to how much public financial assistance they should count on in the future.

Comments

Kylie Eastridge-Renfro 2 months, 1 week ago

cant believe some of the things I'm reading Lawrence community shelter has saved many lives it doesn't sound like some of the people writing these comments have been homeless they saved my life when my family was down and out not everyone that stays out there is white trash or a bum I bet you wouldn't make these comments if a tragedy happened and you needed to stay there

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Bob Forer 7 months ago

Question: Has the relocation of the shelter diminished the number of homeless who hang out downtown? I don't go downtown often enough to have an opinion either way.

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James Minor 7 months ago

Funding can be generated through the confiscation of money from drug violations, speeding and DUI tickets. It can also come from a reduction in the total cost of a new police department. The city needs to keep the shelter open and in good condition. City of Lawrence do whatever it takes to help those in need!

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50YearResident 7 months ago

Who will be responsible to repay a loan made with taxpayers money? More taxpayers, of course. So is the city funding the shelter with their own money? No, they are only obligating the taxpayers to come up with an additional $750,000 of tax money that will have to be paid by raising taxes. Does anybody see a problem here?

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50YearResident 7 months ago

Get out now while you still can because if this "loan" is made, the funding game is over. Some times amputation is the only way to save your life. Cut them off.

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Karl_Hungus 7 months ago

Boy, I wish I were too big to fail. Getting tired of hearing this "we have too much in it already" or "it is too big to fail"....what keeps me from failing (or trying not to fail) are the repercussions of failing...if you never have to worry about failing, you don't plan as well and most likely, fail.

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TheBigW 7 months ago

The money pit need to find it's own funding in the private sector, it was said not all that long ago when they asked for money to move out there, a great deal of community members rightfully noted, they would be back in no time asking for yet another hand out....

Yep, did not even take a full year did it. Maybe the city could offer this sweet funding deal to all the property owners in town.

As an interesting note, I see this week the city is looking to ask the state of Kansas for 70 grand of tax payer money to install a automated fuel pump at the airport. Seems kind of funny that the city can find 725K to piss away on the homeless money pit, yet needs the tax payers to build the rich jet jocks & weekend chumps a fancy gas pump. There seems to be a lot of "hands out" seeking funding..... even city hall.

http://www.lawrenceks.org/assets/agendas/cc/2013/09-24-13/09-24-13_agenda_click_here.html

"7. Authorize staff to submit a KAIP (Kansas Airport Improvement Program) application for self-fueling operation at the Lawrence Municipal Airport for an estimated cost of $70,000. The grant requires a local match of 15%, or approximately $10,500."

http://www.lawrenceks.org/assets/agendas/cc/2013/09-24-13/pw_kansas_airport_improvement_program_grant_memo.html

Hey city hall, you got all that cash in reserves to hand out to that homeless money pit, then you have enough to pay for those gas pumps on the city's dime, stop asking for a hand out.

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nativeson 7 months ago

"The Lawrence Community Shelter is worthy of city support, but there’s a limit to how much financial backing taxpayers should be expected to deliver."

The headline does not reflect the opinion of the leadership of LCS. In their mind, there is no limit to what the City should provide. LCS has historically committed to more than they can fund. They have always had an expectation that the City and the County should provide any and all funding necessary to execute their agenda. The taxpayers are superfluous.

They have had a brilliant strategy of accusing anyone who opposed any request by them of being heartless and uncaring for the poor and homeless.

The other issue at hand that is not discussed are the other worthy not-for-profit agencies in the community that are providing great services and living within their means. Because of the lack of planning and financial management with LCS, there is never a discussion about whether the funding provided to LCS should or could be used for better benefit in the community through other agencies. They seem to always be at the front of the line.

How could $725,000 of capital funding enhance the work of Health Care Access Clinic? This will never be discussed due to the fact that LCS is being rewarded for putting themselves over a barrel and holding the community hostage. It has happened over a period of decades. When is it time for the City to hold them accountable?

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Saul_Goodman 7 months ago

Seems very unlikely that a metal roof that new(<10 y.o.) would require $100k worth of repairs, and if it does, how was this missed during the real estate transaction. Doesn't pass the smell test.

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somebodynew 7 months ago

"The city of Lawrence has invested too much in the Lawrence Community Shelter to now allow the shelter to fall into a serious financial bind. "

OK, so when is the City NOT invested too much ?? Put this money on top of what was already given, so then next year when they come looking for more then the City is REALLY too invested to let something happen.

With this line of thinking the Shelter shouldn't ever have to worry about money - just go to the City because we have so much in that we have to put more in.

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