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News 5 Investigates: Charities receiving most public funds tied - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

News 5 Investigates: Charities receiving most public funds tied to council president

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PUEBLO -

Pueblo City Council and the Board of County Commissioners together spend $1.2 million of your tax dollars each year awarding grants to local charities. Each government body commits $600,000 per year for what is known as the Community Services Advisory Commission, or CSAC. 

Charities seeking CSAC funding must submit grant applications that are reviewed by a 14-member volunteer board. They recommend funding amounts to both City Council and the County Commissioners for final approval. The money supports various human services programs in the community ranging from arts and cultural efforts to help for senior citizens and people with developmental disabilities.

The Boys and Girls Club of Pueblo County, for example, received $157,232 for three grants to subsidize the cost of after school care for 625 children enrolled in their centers.

"The average cost of child care in Colorado for a school aged child is $6,000 and we charge our families $22," explained Executive Director Melanie Bravo.

The Senior Resource Development Agency (SRDA) was also awarded a total of $180,147 through nine separate grants. One such grant, in the amount of $21,618, helped the agency receive matching funds for its Meals on Wheel program.

"We actually bring in a lot of dollars that we couldn't get if we weren't able to come up with a match." explained SRDA Executive Director Steve Nawrocki.

Charities that apply for CSAC grants must provide quarterly reports to Pueblo County and state measurable program outcomes that they will achieve if the funds are awarded.  

Board president Jim Stuart said the people of Pueblo should rest easy knowing their money is in good hands.

"I guarantee you that you could not do better to help the community of Pueblo than how this money is spent," he said.

News 5 Investigates reviewed CSAC grant award amounts from the last three years and found the biggest chunk of the money, 30 percent, consistently goes to two charities: SRDA and the Boys and Girls Club. Each has ties to City Council president Steve Nawrocki. 

He runs SRDA and his step daughter Melanie is executive director for the Boys and Girls Club.

Both told us that relationship isn't a factor in their award amounts.

"CSAC funding predates me by over a decade," said Bravo. "We go to the commission every year, we apply every year like everybody else, make our case and I think the fact that we keep hundreds of kids off the streets every day and in productive pursuits really speaks for itself."

Nawrocki also said grant awards to SRDA have existed long before he was elected to City Council.

"That's been the historically you go back way before either one of us, before I was an elected officials and before she was the director of the Boys and Girls Club you'll see that's a historical pattern."

We dug a little deeper and found one of the largest grants paid to SRDA this year, for $34,228, was specifically to be used for General Management, money that goes directly in Nawrocki's pocket.

He does not vote on CSAC funding and said if the CSAC board approves a grant, council typically agrees with their decision.

"As long as I've been on council, which is like, I'm in my seventh year, there has never been anyone of the elected officials, city or county, that have questioned that citizens group in terms of what they're recommendations are," Nawrocki said.

A bigger question remains for the City. In the face of structural budget deficits, can Pueblo really afford to spend money this way?

"I don't think they can afford not to," said CSAC Board Chair Stuart. "It's only going to make things worse."

Councilman Bob Schilling echoed that sentiment.

"If we want to stop doing that random act of kindness, you know, why should we open the door for somebody, why when somebody falls down should we give them a hand up," he said.

The $600,000 the City of Pueblo spends on CSAC awards is all discretionary, meaning the Council could use those funds to pay the starting salaries of 14 new patrol officers, for example.  Schilling discarded that idea.

"Should we take it away from the needy and give it to the police, I say no," he said.

Stuart believes Pueblo gets a better benefit by investing in the non-profits.

"We don't want to just do things that just get criminals off the streets after they're already criminals, we want to do things that will keep them from becoming criminals to begin with," he said.

The CSAC Board meets on the third Friday of each month at the Pueblo County Housing and Human Services Offices at 2631 E. 4th Street. There are currently five vacancies for board seats. Interested volunteers should contact either the City Clerk or Board of County Commissioners to apply.

Grant awards by the Community Services Advisory Commission
Agency Name FEIN 2016 Award Amount Program Name or Project Description
ARC of Pueblo 84-6037693 $12,844 Guardianship and Advocacy
Bessemer Historical Society 31-1714170 $15,185 Bessemer Historical Society
Boys & Girls Club 23-7307508 $157,232 Multiple Grant Awards
Care and Share Food Bank 84-0731930 $27,808 Care & Share Food Bank
CASA of Pueblo 04-3630442 $27,757 CASA of Pueblo
Catholic Charities 84-0471001 $37,569 Home Stability
Center for Disabilities 84-1184974 $11,742 Center for Disabilities
Crossroads 84-0810723 $37,192 Crossroads
East side Childcare 84-0709410 $77,962 East Side Child Care Center
El Pueblo History Museum 84-6000482 $16,269 El Pueblo History Museum
Friendly Harbor 84-1349692 $5,181 Friendly Harbor
La Gente Youth Sports 74-2479218 $8,500 La Gente Youth Sports
Mtn Park 84-1526595 $20,738 Earth Studies
Nature & Raptor Center 74-2269068 $25,586 Nature & Raptor Center
NeighborWorks 84-0747226
Posada 74-2473501 $38,372 Support Services Only
Pueblo Child Advocacy 84-1071784 $24,846 Pueblo Child Advocacy Center
Pueblo Cooperative Care 84-0913793 $24,577 Pueblo Cooperative Care
Pueblo Diversified Industries 84-0575987 $15,257 Pueblo Diversified Industries
Pueblo Hispanic Education 74-2498914 $4,038 General Operations
Pueblo Municipal Band 54-2121178 $2,077 Pueblo Municipal Band
Pueblo Railway 87-0694204 $10,862 Pueblo Railway Museum Operation
Pueblo Rape Crisis 31-1731020 $4,538 Pueblo Rape Crisis
Pueblo Suicide Prevention 84-0755888 $38,757 no document provided
Pueblo Symphony 84-0580443 $8,205 Pueblo Symphony
Pueblo Salvation Army 13-2923701 $21,242 Community Meal and Warming Shelter
Sangre de Cristo Art Center 84-0624551 $103,269 Sangre de Cristo Arts Center
SEL Tutoring 45-2811176 $6,385 SEL Tutoring
Southeastern Colorado Heritage 84-1413740 $9,091 Southeastern CO Heritage
Southside Childcare $57,731 Southside Children's Center
SRDA 84-0593609 $180,147 SRDA1 SRDA2
United Way 84-0404917 $25,933 United Way
YWCA 84-0402720 $83,108 Crisis Shelter and Counseling
Sub Total

$1,140,000

Administrative Costs $60,000
Grand Total $1,200,000

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