Lawrence City Commission to consider providing $31,000 in additional funding to homeless shelter
photo by: Jackson Barton
City leaders will consider providing $31,000 of the city’s surplus sales tax proceeds to the local homeless shelter.
As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider the Lawrence Community Shelter’s $31,000 supplementary funding request, which would temporarily allow the shelter to increase its capacity on cold nights. The shelter has been struggling financially and last year decided to reduce its capacity.
The shelter has the capacity to house at least 125 people and in the past has provided another 20 extra beds in the winter, but because of budget shortfalls it currently is housing only 90 people. The capacity reduction forced people to leave the shelter, and many continue to sleep outside into the winter months, as the Journal-World has reported.
Lawrence Community Shelter Executive Director Renee Kuhl states in a letter to the commission that the $31,000 will enable the shelter to house up to 15 additional people on nights when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. The funds will pay for the additional personnel, food, supplies and assistance needed to accommodate the additional people, according to the letter. The funds will also go to one-time capital improvements, which Kuhl previously told the commission included repairs to a water heater and a new drinking fountain.
When the commission was creating the 2020 budget last summer, the homeless shelter asked the city to increase its funding from about $200,000 to $504,000. The commission instead approved $296,000 for the shelter. However, at that time, then-Mayor Lisa Larsen said she wanted to watch how city sales tax collections finished the year and potentially modify the budget to give the shelter more money if receipts came in better than expected. Lawrence received about $400,000 more in sales and use tax collections in 2019 than it had budgeted for, and the commission voted at its meeting Jan. 7 to consider the funding request.
A city staff memo to the commission cautions that there are already “several items” that will likely cost more than budgeted for 2020. It also notes that there were other high priorities that were not funded in 2020 as well as funding reductions to a number of other social service agencies. The memo states the request should be considered in the context of the entire budget process.
When considering the shelter’s request, the commission must follow guidelines in the supplementary budget request policy. That policy states that in considering such requests, the commission will evaluate whether the request is a high enough priority to justify the allocation of contingency funds. The commission must also evaluate the long-range implications of fulfilling the request.
The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.