If you need a sign that Petaluma’s budget is on shaky ground, look no further than the Boys and Girls Club. The venerable organization that has been a refuge for thousands of Petaluma kids is being forced to close three of its five Petaluma clubhouses. This is due in part to a decline in city funding for the Boys and Girls Club.
Petaluma traditionally funded a host of local nonprofit agencies through its redevelopment agency, which was a mechanism for municipal governments to capture a portion of property taxes to use on community improvement projects. But in 2012, the state did away with redevelopment, meaning the city has had to come up with other ways to fund its priorities.
Since then, the city has tapped an affordable housing fund paid by developers of residential projects. But this is not a sustainable source of revenue, and the nonprofits were told that they would be weaned off the funding.
In this year’s budget, the city is proposing to slash funding to Petaluma People Services Center, Committee on the Shelterless, PEP Housing and the Boys and Girls Club. For COTS, which is instrumental in tackling the homeless problem in Petaluma, the cut represented a 45 percent reduction from last year’s funding level.
An online petition opposing the cut to COTS’ funding garnered more than 1,000 signatures, along with a number of vocal residents who, at a recent Petaluma City Council meeting, implored officials to keep funding at the current $150,000 level for the upcoming budget cycle.
Because of the outcry, city officials relented and decided to keep COTS’s funding level unchanged this year. However, COTS’ funding will likely be reduced next year.
For the other nonprofits on the list, the city is moving forward with proposed funding cuts. That means the Boys and Girls Club, which at one time received $300,000 from the city, will get only $80,000 this year.
Clubhouses at Cinnabar Elementary School and at west side affordable housing complexes Old Elm Village and Washington Creek will close next month. Those facilities provide low-cost educational and recreational programming, predominately reaching underserved and at-risk youth.
The agency serves more than 5,100 youth between the ages of 6 and 18 at 10 clubhouses in Marin County and Petaluma, and its programs have positively impacted the lives of many young Petalumans. Particularly, the programs have the potential to keep kids out of gangs and participating in positive activities, which will save the city money in the long run.
The Petaluma City Council will adopt the final budget on June 5, and there is still an opportunity for officials to reinstate funding for the Boys and Girls Club.
However, without redevelopment as a funding source, nonprofts should not count on city funding as a sustainable source of revenue going forward. The city has its own budget problems.