Charity seeks answers to funding cuts

By: Robert Guttersohn | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published July 17, 2012


MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Patricia Schmeiser, the president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, still wants to know why her organization is losing almost half of the grant money it expected to receive this year.

And during her Aug. 6 meeting with Mike Rozny, the program manager from the county’s Community Development Services Group, and the township Supervisor Mark Grabow, answers are what she expects.

But Grabow contends there is little the township or county can do to help the organization and said it should have planned better for such a loss in funding.

“I just want to know how did it happen, who did it and what’s going to happen,” Schmeiser said. “I could be more knowledgeable on all of this, but nobody is telling me anything.”

Every year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sends counties Community Development Block Grant money to be dispersed to its communities.

In February, Schmeiser said, the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development told her St. Vincent was going to receive $3,540 in CDBG reimbursements for fiscal year 2012, an amount she normally receives.

At the beginning of July — when the funds become available each year — she discovered the amount available to St. Vincent was only $1,800.

“I never received notification that they took the money away,” she said.

Rozny has said that the county had to withhold money this year in order to stay in compliance with federal grant guidelines.

Schmeiser has attended the last two township Board of Trustees meetings seeking answers and growing frustrated at what little she heard.

So at the July 11 meeting, she took matters into her own hands by attempting to set up a meeting between Grabow, Rozny and herself.

“I realize this is a very, very busy time for you, and I’m asking you for this information right now, so I can call (Rozny) first thing tomorrow morning,” Schmeiser said to Grabow during the July 11 trustee meeting, requesting to know Grabow’s schedule. “I’m just wondering why you didn’t contact me.”

“Like you said, with my busy schedule, I’m surprised you didn’t contact me,” Grabow said in return.

Grabow said in a later interview that St. Vincent was not the only township organization to lose CDBG funding this year. He said the county withheld all money from the senior services fund, which normally receives $3,450 each year.

He added there is nothing the township can do to help Schmeiser.

“All we’re able to do is allocate,” Grabow said. “We can’t make HUD give us anything.”

Grabow said he was “shocked” and “offended” that St. Vincent came to the township asking about funding.

“I’m embarrassed a charity organization would come to us and say, ‘Where’s our money,’” Grabow said.

Although the amount of money St. Vincent normally receives each year from the county is a small amount, Schmeiser said losing half of it is a significant cut and will force her organization, which works out of St. Isidore Church and helps families dealing with utility shutoffs, evictions and other emergencies, to alter budgetary plans this year.

Grabow said he sympathizes, but that every organization needs an alternative stream of revenue.

“As far as I know, every charity organization has a backup plan just in case funding doesn’t come through,” he said. “Shame on you for not having a backup plan.”