The service contract between the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and the City of Fitchburg is set to expire on December 31. The contract calls for the BGC to receive $50,000 annually to provide services to 850 adults and youths. The Boys and Girls Club in Fitchburg is stationed near Allied Drive, traditionally one of the city’s neediest areas.
Mayor Jason Gonzalez’s proposed budget will, if approved, eliminate the money that the Boys and Girls Club receives to provide those services, along with $60,000 other non-profits receive from the City of Fitchburg.
Mayor Gonzalez expressed the sentiment that using city funding to run entities like the Boys and Girls Club should not be limited to just Fitchburg.
“The only municipality that funds the Boys and Girls Club is the City of Fitchburg,” Mayor Gonzalez said. “Why doesn’t Sun Prairie or Madison fund them? No other municipality gives money from the levy. Why should Fitchburg be the only city that gives money?”
In fact, Gonzalez is wrong on this point. In 2017, BGC received $185,427 in tax levy funds from the City of Madison, according to City records, including nearly $79,000 for the community center on Allied Drive. Several other nonprofit neighborhood centers receive City of Madison funding as well.
Mayor Gonzalez said the most responsible and fair thing to do was to eliminate the granting of funds for all non-profits. He said he even turned down two non-profit organizations in 2017 who were seeking funding. Gonzalez maintains that slashing the funding is primarily the result of financial issues resulting from the previous mayoral administration and not the result of any personal bias, nor is he cutting non-profit funding in order to pay for a new ambulance as some in the community may mistakenly have thought.
“This year we forfeited $650,000 (in state funds),” Gonzalez said. “If I were to have had that money, I could have funded the Boys and Girls Club. I could fund a new detective. I could fund an additional social worker for the Senior Center. But previous administrations didn’t qualify so now we lost that funding. In 2019, we have to add $356,000 in perpetuity for the fire station for Fitchburg and Verona to add seven new human beings who will be serving Dane County. It’s not for an ambulance. So we need to have room in the budget to absorb that shock. So I can’t just spend into the levy for something like Boys and Girls Club now and then in 2019 say I need the $356,000.”
Gonzalez knows that many people may be concerned about the loss of those funds. He encourages people to show up at 6 pm on October 3 or 7 pm on October 10 at 5520 Lacy Road in Fitchburg to take part in the budgetary hearings.
He does, however, caution that while citizens can speak and have their voices heard, it will not be a back and forth. Citizens will have an allotted time per person to speak but won’t be able to have feedback and back and forth with council members during that time.
“At the end of the day, I chose the position that if I had to reduce funding to a non-profit, I would do it to all of them not just choose between one or two organizations,” Gonzalez said. “That’s why I did it across the board. It wasn’t just Boys and Girls Club. It wasn’t singling them out. It was saying we’re going to take a break from funding non-profits across the board. More people have reached out to me in opposition of funding the Boys and Girls Club rather than in support of funding it.”