Slogging economy creates additional needs


* Citing growing pressures and decreases in charitable contributions, service organizations ask City to increase allocations from upcoming budget

By LPR Staff

As a common practice, the Lockhart City Council has allocated thousands of tax dollars each year to support the organizations that support the neediest in the community – the

children, the elderly and the abused. This year, as the growing economic downturn batters Central Texas and charitable donations become luxury items, service organizations find themselves leaning on municipal contributions more than ever to bridge the gap.

Although the city’s current budget projections have earmarked nearly $25,300 to help support those organizations, the contribution falls far short of the hopes of local Samaritan groups.

During Tuesday night’s meeting of the Lockhart City Council, representatives of eight organization, serving every segment of the population from elderly shut-ins to abused children, approached the Lockhart City Council to ask for their share of this year’s budget. Those requests totaled upwards of $53,000, more than twice the City’s available funds.

Each organization offered compelling reasons for their requests for increased funding.

“Around 56 percent of the families we provide food to every month in Caldwell County are from Lockhart,” said Rose Dunn-Turner, director of Caldwell County Christian Ministries, which operates the county’s food bank. “We spend about $5,000 each month at the Capital Area Food Bank [which translates to around 17,000 pounds of food].”

Dunn-Turner said shortfalls in community donations have taken their toll on the food bank, which provides food to hundreds of local families each month.

“Our canned food donations have fallen off, and we went through a period where we had no meat donations, and were struggling to make up protein with peanut butter, beans… whatever we could,” she said.

Concerns about a decline in private-donor contributions and decreased Federal funding were echoed over and over, as the council grappled to weigh the needs of the community’s taxpayers with the needs of the organizations which serve them.

Funding requests included:

Capital Area Rural Transportation Organization (CARTPO), which provides low-cost transit service within Lockhart, as well as to Austin, San Marcos, Luling and San Antonio asked for a contribution of $4,000.

CASA of Central Texas, who recruit and train volunteers to act as court-appointed advocates for children in the CPS system. CASA director Lydia Serna said last year, the organization was able to serve 27 children from Caldwell County last year, 15 of whom were from Lockhart. However, more than 100 children in the system went without services, for lack of volunteers and funding. They asked for an increase in funding from the City of Lockhart from $1,000 to $5,000.

The Caldwell County Combined Community Action – Homemaker Program provides for housekeeping and home improvement projects for the elderly and homebound. They requested $1,800 in funding.

The Caldwell County Combined Community Action – Senior Nutrition Program operates Meals on Wheels in Lockhart and Caldwell County. They asked for $5,000 in funding.

The Lockhart Area Senior Activity Center requested a repeat in last year’s allocation of $3,200.

The Hays-Caldwell Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse asked for $4,000 in funding. The organization currently runs not only recovery assistance programs, but support and education programs in every school within the Lockhart Independent School District.

“It’s our position that alcohol and drug abuse is not an individual problem, but a community problem,” director Sue Cohen said. “Elementary schoolers do not have substance abuse problems, but their parents [and family members] surely do.”

The Community Health Coalition of Caldwell County asked for $4,000 to help support their durable medical equipment program. The program is currently in the last year of a three-year Federal grant cycle, and will realize a decrease in Federal funding in April 2011.

Finally, the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center asked for $10,100, unquestionably the largest contribution. The Center provides services for the victims of domestic abuse, child abuse and sexual abuse, including a women’s shelter and a child advocacy center, Roxanne’s House, where a bevy of investigation and counseling services are provided for abuse victims. Their request was predicated on a cost of $1,000 per client. HCWC responded to 268 incidences of family violence, 10 rapes and 144 confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect in Caldwell County last year. In addition, they provide services to adult victims of childhood sexual abuse. All told, they served 101 clients from Lockhart during the last fiscal year.

As budget negotiations progress to the Sept. 14, 2010, public hearing regarding the final proposed budget, the council will make determinations on which organizations to assist in funding, and to what level.

In brief news:
The council heard a presentation from architect Normal Alston regarding the upcoming renovation of the Masonic Annex to the Dr. Eugene Clark Library.

They approved a joint resolution renaming the Plum Creek Wetlands Park to the HT Wright Memorial Park.

The council heard concerns from two residents of Bois D’Arc Street regarding the curb,
gutter and sidewalk projects recently undertaken in that neighborhood.

They set two public hearings regarding the 2010 – 2011 budget. The first, in the event a tax increase is necessary to fund the budget, will be held on Sept. 7, 2010. The second, a public hearing regarding the proposed budget, will be held on Sept. 14, 2010.

The Lockhart City Council routinely meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Conference Room at Lockhart City Hall. The next meeting will be a budget workshop, which is scheduled for July 15, 2010, beginning at 6:30 p.m.


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