URBANA — City council members are trying to decide how they should go about distributing $313,000 to local nonprofit organizations, and Mayor Laurel Prussing has proposed new ways that the city might deliver social services.
That discussion is one of several items on the council's agenda this week. It will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the Urbana City Building, 400 S. Vine St.
The city and Cunningham Township give about that much to local nonprofits each year. The total represents $204,000 from the city, $100,000 from the township and $9,000 from a federal grant.
Some of the biggest beneficiaries include Family Service of Champaign County, the Center for Women in Transition, Community Elements and Crisis Nursery, among others.
In the past, council members have hand-picked the agencies they fund and how much they contribute based on requests from the agencies and the services they provide.
Prussing and some council members have proposed tweaking the process. They say they should develop a method for evaluating the agencies' performance with the funds given.
Prussing has proposed keeping funding from the city and township at current levels, and she hopes Champaign will contribute a proportional amount.
According to a memo Prussing wrote to council members, Urbana city officials have asked Champaign for a list of what it currently funds and "hope to find a way that they can help some of the agencies we now support." Prussing's longstanding argument is that the social services Urbana taxpayers are subsidizing often cross city boundaries.
"I would hope Champaign would fund in proportion to its population, which is roughly twice that of Urbana," Prussing wrote in her memo. "However, if the ratio is 1.5 to 1 or even 1 to 1, it would be a step in the right direction."
Champaign does not contribute directly to local nonprofits, but it does fund city programs that target certain community needs, such as housing and "urban renewal."
Prussing also hopes her city can encourage early childhood education. She said 150 to 200 mostly low-income children in Urbana who are eligible for early childhood education are on a waiting list for either school programs or Head Start.
"Helping all these children is beyond the financial ability of the city alone, and we need to define some specific ways we can help and then a program to get support from other entities in Urbana," she wrote. "Numerous studies show that investment in very young children is the best way to create a better community for everyone."