Catch up: Read previous coverage relating to the city's financial crisis in our San Bernardino section

SAN BERNARDINO - Unlike many departments facing cuts in the aftermath of the city's bankruptcy filing, local nonprofits won't face cuts in their funding, city officials said.

The city helps about 25 nonprofit agencies each fiscal year with resources such as Community Development Block Grant funds, Emergency Shelter Grant programs and in-kind services.

This fiscal year, the city has made substantial cuts to the amount spent on nonprofits' administrative costs, nearly $300,000 less than the prior year's amount, according to Brandon Mims, the city's Community Development Block Grant project manager.

But funding for nonprofits/public service projects has not been impacted, he said.

"In fact, this year additional funding was awarded to agencies that provide services to low-income residents of the city of San Bernardino," Mims said.

In the weeks after the August filing, the nonprofit San Bernardino Symphony's leaders thought the loss of city support was imminent.

The symphony sought donations at the opening of its concert series in September to match a $25,000 donation by Chuck and Shelby Obershaw.

"We know we were a line item in the city budget, but we haven't heard a figure yet - with all the turmoil, we don't know what's happening," said Valerie Peister, symphony executive director.

"We're getting close to the Obershaw match - people love the orchestra and what it's doing for the community," she said.

Now in its 84th season, the symphony has been called a "cultural treasure" that each year performs a series of classical masterpieces.

Most of the city's Community Development Block Grant funds are spent internally (in city departments) on community development projects and programs, according to Mims.

During the 2011-12 fiscal year, the city spent $315,000 on nonprofit public services, but received about $3.2million in block grant funds, he said.

Terrance Stone, president and CEO of Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy, said the city's bankruptcy filing hasn't hurt the organization financially.

"But we do depend on the Police Department for our Team VIP program, which is for Violence Intervention Prevention, in which officers were coming out to help and volunteer in their free time," Stone said.

The program, which aims to build good relationships between youth and the Police Department, can't continue, according to Stone.

The academy now has about 200 young people, ages 13-17, in the program.

Maya Wilcolts, 19, of San Bernardino plays the organ at the center.
Maya Wilcolts, 19, of San Bernardino plays the organ at the center. (LaFonzo Carter/Staff Photographer)

"It's hard if the city has no money and the economy is bad - needs are increasing," Stone said.

The San Bernardino Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department has had to tighten its belt since the city was made budget cuts in 2009.

The Center for Individual Development, or CID, which is under the auspices of the parks and recreation agency, was a victim of the cuts.

The center provides recreational programs for people people with physical and developmental disabilities and mental illness.

The Friends of the CID raised about $160,000 to keep the doors open, according to Dee Stoddard, president of the Friends of the CID board.

"The after-school program gives the young people so much self-esteem and the therapeutic pool gives the older adults the exercise they need to help their legs work better," Stoddard said.

Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Hawkins said programs like the center's "have to stay open - it's not an option."

The CID is part of a joint-powers authority, made up of the city Parks,, Recreation & Community Services Department, the county Behavioral Health Department and the San Bernardino City Unified School District.

"The Friends of the CID, the nonprofit arm of the organization, has given tremendous financial support," Hawkins said.

"The city and Parks and Recreation are looking at various ways to continue services," he added. 

Karen DiCarlo, executive director of Santa Claus Inc., said that to her knowledge, the organization, which provides Christmas gifts to at-risk children, will be receiving $15,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds.

"As far as I know, we have been approved by City Council and have gone through the process of receiving our regular designated CDBG funds," she said.

"That's the only financial transaction with the city we have."

The Children's Fund, too, receives block grants from the city.

Erin Phillips, Children's Fund president and CEO, said she understands the organization's grant funding is available.

"We are seeing more of a gap in our needs and the nonprofits are stretched even more," Phillips said. "There are so many families in crisis, we need to find 12 more hours in our day."

She added, "We'd like to encourage all the nonprofits to work together."

Children's Fund receives $14,000 in CDBG funds from the city, Phillips said.

For the Time for Change Foundation, the grant funding it receives accounts for 5 percent of the total they need to help homeless women and children.

"We're financially diversified enough not to be dependent on government spending," said Kim Carter, founder and executive director of the foundation. "When the city suffers from financial loss, then the demand for services from nonprofits increases tenfold, and more people are facing homelessness.

Some nonprofits don't depend on the city for financial assistance.

"We don't have a partnership with the city, so the bankruptcy doesn't impact us at all," said Catherine Pritchett, senior assistant to the executive director at the Inland Valley Development Agency/San Bernardino International Airport, home of the Norton Air Force Base Museum, which is being renovated.

"I'm glad we are detached. We're making excellent progress and hope to have the Norton museum dedication sometime in November," Pritchett said.

"Just because the city is bankrupt, it doesn't mean that businesses are bankrupt - we are independent," said Judi Penman, president and CEO of the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce

San Bernardino is not alone in its bankruptcy woes.

The Bay Area city of Vallejo began the trend in May 2008, a precursor for struggling cities in a struggling state.

In June, Stockton, with a population of 300,000, became the largest California city to choose the bankruptcy option after it was unable to close a $26 million gap in its general fund.

In July, the small resort city of Mammoth Lakes filed for bankruptcy protection because of a $43 million court judgment it couldn't pay.

Atwater, a city of 28,000 in the San Joaquin Valley, is on the brink of filing bankruptcy - and if it does, would be the fourth California city to do so this year.

"We all feel the burden," said Time for Change Foundation's Carter, "so we're all going to be hurting but working harder."


Reach Michel via email, find her on Twitter @michelnolan, or call her at 909-386-3859.