The Unified Government Commission is working on a plan that would change the way it distributes $500,000 in community charitable contributions from the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway.
Under the proposed changes outlined at a recent UG meeting, UG commissioners would handle the grant applications directly, making decisions on them, according to UG officials. The selection committee no longer would make recommendations to the commission on the grants. A UG Commission subcommittee developed the proposed changes.
The focus of the grants, on community health programs in Wyandotte County, would stay the same, according to Joe Connor, assistant UG administrator, who described the changes at a recent meeting.
Commissioner Mike Kane was one of those who were in favor of the changes, as he noted last year that the 5th District was not receiving funds from the casino grant program.
Formerly, the maximum that could be distributed to any organization was $50,000 and the minimum grant amount was $10,000, but under the proposed change, there will be no minimum and maximum.
Each commissioner would have access to around $45,000 to distribute to nonprofits in Wyandotte County, according to the proposed plan. Previously, the selection committee selected the programs that would receive grants, and the UG Commission had the option of approving them all in total, or rejecting them all together.
Under the proposed plan, the commissioners will review applications, select recipients for about $45,000 that they will each control, and then their selections will go to the entire UG Commission for approval. The commissioners would be allowed to approve grants to agencies outside of their district, according to the plan.
The applications will still go through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, to verify whether the applicant is a legal entity in good standing with the state, and is either a nonprofit agency under the 501 (c) 3 rules or is a partner with a nonprofit, according to UG officials. Then the commissioners will review the applications.
Formerly, other local governments such as school districts were not allowed to apply for casino charitable grants, as the commission had reasoned that the schools already were receiving casino charitable grants under another program. However, under the new proposal, schools and governments will be allowed to apply for grants.
Commissioner Tarence Maddox said at the meeting that he was glad the commission has made a move in this direction. He thought the smaller groups formerly had been left out.
Smaller organizations that do not have nonprofit status could partner with larger organizations that are nonprofits in order to apply for grants, according to Commissioner Ann Murguia.
“This is going to create a lot more funding opportunity for the small grassroots organizations that make such positive impacts in their areas,” said Commissioner Murguia, who supports the change. “I think it will be really positive.”
The plan will come back before the commission for a final vote in a future meeting. The plan has the support of about seven commissioners, with Commissioner Jane Philbrook and Gayle Townsend expressing some doubts. Mayor Mark Holland also has previously expressed doubts about the changes to the funding distribution method.