Antelope Valley Press

Salva decries lack of city funding

Residents describe its charity efforts

- By ALLISON GATLIN Special to the Valley Press

PALMDALE — Members and supporters of Salva turned out at Wednesday’s Palmdale City Council meeting to air their complaints that the city did not provide funds for their nonprofit organizati­on in the Fiscal Year 2023-2024 budget approved in June.

A couple dozen residents spoke before the council, many in Spanish through an interprete­r, describing the efforts — from food distributi­on to computer and English classes — undertaken by the organizati­on and the need for city funds to continue its work.

Contrary to what some may think, the organizati­on serves more than just the Latino community, some speakers stressed.

“They welcome everyone in the community from all walks of life,” one supporter said.

Salva received $177,000 last year from the city’s Measure AV sales tax revenues under a grant program offered for local non-profits, the first time the grants were available. The program proved to be highly controvers­ial, however, and the council decided against continuing it.

In the 2023-2024 budget, the $33.5 million in Measure AV funds were divided among four categories, mirroring the uses outlined in the tax measure: public safety, beautifica­tion/infrastruc­ture/ capital improvemen­t projects, community programs and economic developmen­t. These allocation­s did not include a specific grant program for non-profits.

During the budget process this year, Mayor Pro Tem Andrea Alarcón requested doubling the amount set aside for community programs, from $2 million to $4 million, but did not receive any support from other council members for the proposal. In order to provide funding for organizati­ons, at the time she proposed hiring an outside consultant to oversee a grant program.

On Wednesday, Alarcón complained that nothing had changed in the six months since the budget was approved.

“Promises have been made and nothing has been done,” she said.

The matter was not a part of the council’s agenda; instead, supporters aired it during the open public comment period near the end of the meeting.

The remarks at times became heated and there were periodic disruption­s from the speakers and members of the audience, leading at least once to Mayor Laura Bettencour­t seeking a recess.

In response, several council members stressed their support for Salva’s efforts, but that

the now-defunct grant program was not the way to do so.

Referring to the “extreme accusation­s” of some of the speakers, Councilmem­ber Richard Loa said the “job of the city council is to provide municipal services, economic opportunit­ies and public safety to residents without discrimina­ting against any sector. The city is doing that.”

Councilmem­ber Eric Ohlsen noted that Salva and other organizati­ons were not “defunded,” as had been claimed, because the grant program turned out to be only a one-year program.

“You were never in the budget,” he said.

There are other sources of funding available to organizati­ons, Ohlsen said, such as funding set aside for mental health services from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds that Salva could apply for to support its mental health programmin­g.

“There’s money in this budget. Ask for it,” he said.

“I want to support you, but it’s hard to do when we’re being threatened and you won’t ask for the money that’s available,” Ohlsen said.

The public commentary followed a march to City Hall shortly before the meeting began and organized by Salva. Music and voices could be heard in the Council Chambers from this gathering during the meeting itself whenever the doors to the chamber were opened.

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