San Benito agrees to funding local charities; Money comes out of $1.5 million sewer project

Children play games after school at the San Benito Boys & Girls Club on Friday.

SAN BENITO — Local charities are standing up for their cut of the city’s annual federal money.

Earlier this week, the directors of two nonprofit agencies demanded city commissioners help fund four local charities.

The outcry led commissioners to pull about $22,000 from a $1.5 million sewer project, leading City Manager Manuel De La Rosa to make budget cuts to avoid a property tax increase.

During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners proposed $32,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money be equally divided among the San Benito Boys and Girls Club, Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cameron and Willacy Counties, or CASA, Maggie’s House and Amigos Del Valle.

Public hearings into the city’s grant proposals are set for June 25 and July 16.

Commissioners had planned to earmark about $40,000 worth of CDBG money to help fund the $1.5 million planning and design phase of a statemandated multimilliondollar sewer system upgrade.

The decision would have cut off local charities from the city’s annual federal funding aimed at community development.

But the local charities called on commissioners to help the children who rely on them for help.

Boys and Girls Club “We run a quality program not available to youth by other means,” Liz Chavez, chairwoman of the San Benito Boys and Girls Club, told commissioners during the meeting’s public comment period.

Chavez said the club, known for its recreational programs, also offers children help through Behavioral health Solutions of South Texas.

“The majority of youths are from your city,” Chavez told commissioners. From the podium, Justice of the Peace Chuy Garcia said he joined the club when he was growing up. “The Boys and Girls Club sees hundreds of kids from the community,” Garcia told commissioners.

Cameron County Constable Adrian Gonzalez told commissioners the club offers a second home to many of the city’s poor children.

“It’s very, very hard to come up with money,” Gonzalez, a member of the club’s board of directors, told commissioners. “These kids don’t have a voice. A lot of these kids come from broken homes — very low-income homes.”

CASA Dora Martinez, CASA’s executive director, said her agency used the city’s most recent $5,000 grant to help 40 area children.

“These are our most vulnerable citizens of San Benito,” Martinez, whose agency helps foster children, said.

“Eliminating funds completely may eliminate children from San Benito.”

Last year, CASA and the Boys and Girls Club fought to receive federal money the city left unspent during recent years.

“This is the only city that doesn’t have consistency in supporting nonprofits,” Chavez said.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com