It’s budget time, so that means it’s also time for drama surrounding the future of the Pico Youth &Family Center.
This time around, City Council is considering completely cutting the funding for the nonprofit youth organization run by Board of Education member Oscar de la Torre.
At the start of the current fiscal year, council agreed to cut a one-time check of $190,000 to keep the organization afloat.
Human Services Manager Setareh Yavari told council the one-time payment would “help them close that gap so that they could continue to look at ways to diversify their funding stream, and we feel that’s one of the issues that continues to remain.”
She said PYFC requested another $190,000 and the combined total would make up about 40 percent of PYFC’s programming budget. She also said documents provided to City Hall show that half the organization’s board turned over this year, something she called a consistent issue.
“As you know some of the historical and ongoing issues and concerns continue to remain,” Yavari told council, “and in reviewing the current proposal that was submitted, we continue to have concerns about some of their governance and administrative functions as well as some of the fiscal stability and concerns around the financial ability of the organization to continue to sustain itself.”
In recent years, City Hall has said repeatedly said that the PYFC fails to provide adequate financial documentation. De la Torre has repeatedly denied this.
On Thursday, when discussing the city budget, council had a chance to ask questions of the PYFC’s treasurer. She had some but not all of the data that council was looking for.
Dozens of member of the community came out to speak in support of the after school programming, with many individuals detailing the way in which it changed or saved their lives.
Aside from asking questions of the treasurer, few council members spoke one way or the other on the topic of the PYFC. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the proposed budget. Any changes to the budget, like a decision to continue funding the PYFC, would come later this month.
Councilmember Sue Himmelrich, however, called the PYFC funding issue the “elephant in the room” and expressed a desire to see more financial information from the nonprofit.
“It has been an integral member of our community for 13 years,” she said.
The public testimony, she said, had more credibility than she’d seen at past public hearings.
PYFC officials said they’d provide the necessary financial documentation.
In 2012, philanthropist Peggy Bergmann bequeathed $1.6 million to the PYFC but a member of the nonprofit’s board attempted to return the check amidst internal strife over the mission of the organization and accusations of financial mismanagement.
Ultimately, the PYFC won a legal battle, granting them the rights to the money in $165,000 increments. The organization said that between Bergmann’s money, cash from the city, and some fundraising, they could stay afloat.
“We see what’s happening throughout the nation in city’s like Baltimore, Ferguson, and Chicago are showing us that divesting from historically marginalized neighborhoods leads to greater poverty, hopelessness and violence,” de la Torre told council.
Council is scheduled to vote on the final budget at its June 23 meeting.