Question: a late grant to Sertoma

Council approved on first reading this month a $19,650 grant to the Sertoma Center under a claim from the mayor’s office that the organization had mistakenly asked for capital grants when it really needed operating grants.

Seeing a nonprofit that applied and didn’t get money the first time raised a flag over here at Knox beat. The question: “If they didn’t get money then, why are they now?”

Mayor Madeline Rogero said at the time that she wasn’t funding capital requests from the nonprofits seeking city cash. And Sertoma’s application was for capital funding. But the claim quickly became that a mistake had been made, and a May 31 email from staff at the Sertoma Center backs that, in a way:

… the Community Agency Grant Application with the City of Knoxville was denied because a “capital grant was requested.”  As you can see from the attached grant, there is clearly a box to check for “Capital” or “Operational” Grants.  Sertoma’s representative attended the meeting where the City development department explained how to apply and the details of doing so. There was no mention at that meeting that a request for a capital grant would not be considered nor on their website where the application was supplied.  I have heard that most City Council members believe that the Center did not even apply for a grant this year – that is why I have attached a copy of the Center’s grant application.
The funds Sertoma Center requested is not just for a building improvement; rather, they will be used to improve the quality of life for clients. …

On June 1, Rogero backed the statement in an email sent City Council:

… it was my intention during this transition year to continue funding all organizations (at some level) that had received funding last year and continue to show results.  (NOTE: Some organizations did not re-apply this year and some missed the deadline.  Thus, we were able to add some new groups at modest amounts.)

Sertoma is an excellent organization and deserves continued funding.  This was simply an oversight on our part, and was not because they had asked for capital funding instead of operating.  (By asking for capital funding, they were listed in the capital funding group and we missed that this was, in reality, continuation funding. It was not our intention to penalize a group because they asked for capital instead of operating.) I have been working with our finance director to find funding for Sertoma’s capital request of $19,650 …

City Council split the item from a budget amendment including $1.5 million for University Commons, and approved the Sertoma grant. It next goes to second reading.

Next question: If they can apply, be denied, and then get back on board for money later, what’s keeping the process for funding nonprofits pure?

The resident wonk here wants to know what keeps the process equal to all when a nonprofit can come back and say they made a mistake. Can other nonprofits do this?

So what would/will the money have been used to buy, anyway? From the Sertoma application, dated Feb. 29:

… to improve the medical clinic located at our center.
The space allocated to the clinic is too small for our growing senior client population, so the space is not efficiently used and does not meet the needs of our service recipients. Improvements planned are (1) enlarging the bathroom to include a changing table for adults with diapers and room to transfer these clients from wheelchairs to the changing table, (2) improving our infirmary to include an examination table and a bed for clients in our day program who become sick or who need to recover
from procedures such as dental appointments, (3) establishing a clinic office with a separate entry for Sertoma’s non-medical staff to schedule medical appointments and manage paperwork, (4) moving our locked medicine closet to a convenient location next to the clinic’s main entrance (for ease of access by clients for four daily medicine distributions per day), and (5) installing new flooring in the entire clinic area. These improvements will enable Sertoma to provide more effective services to our
clients, improving their basic care and quality of life.

We’re not picking on Sertoma here, for few will doubt the contribution to society they provide. But what of the processes governing how public funds are spent? Consistency?


About Gerald

A journalist in Knoxville, TN. Work (mostly) inside and play (mostly) outside. I'm a part of the X or the Y generation. None of us claim the other.
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