Aurora OKs longer contracts for homeless programs, providing funding, agency stability

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AURORA | A quartet of homeless service programs in Aurora are likely to soon operate under longer contracts with the city, members of Aurora City Council decided at a special study session May 22.

Council members agreed to move forward with a proposal that would change several contracts between the city and homeless service providers from one year to about three-and-a-half years. The four homeless programs and providers are: Aurora Mental Health Center’s support of the city’s new Day Resource Center, Comitis Crisis Center’s support at the Day Resource Center, the Comitis Crisis Center’s outreach team, and the Aurora Housing Authority’s landlord recruitment program.

The first two programs will directly benefit the Day Resource Center, which is located in a former police gymnasium on the University of Colorado Anschutz medical campus and slated to open in the city late next month. At roughly 10,000-square-feet of total space, the facility will offer a bevy of services from about 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Comitis’ outreach team travels around the city via van, offering supplies and access to additional resources to homeless people. The Aurora Housing Authority program provides incentives to landlords willing to provide rental accommodations to people using housing vouchers.

Contract extensions for some of the city’s homeless programs first came up at the behest of City Councilman Bob LeGare during a recent meeting of the city’s Housing, Neighborhood Services and Redevelopment Policy Committee. City staff explained that while most homeless providers have operated under one-year contracts with the city in the past, longer contracts would provide more stability for the respective programs.

“I think the intent of this is that it really will allow our service providers to focus on the services and program development, and not be worrying year to year about whether or not they’re going to get funded again,” said Shelley McKittrick, director of the city’s homelessness program. “It really does allow people to hunker down and develop services.”

If council members approve the agreement on the floor at an upcoming regular meeting, the contracts would cost the city a total of $2,543,837 through the end of 2019. A portion of that total has already been accounted for in the city’s 2017 budget, and the rest of the money would come from ongoing marijuana tax revenues.

The original proposal called for a roughly two-and-half-year extension, although council members opted to tack on an extra year. Projections for the additional year — through 2020 — were not immediately available.

Services provided by Comitis at the forthcoming Day Resource Center would take up the bulk of that projected total through 2019, with a contract that would amount to $1,945,245, according to city documents. The remaining funds would be divided as follows: $265,925 for Aurora Mental Health’s programs at the Day Resource Center, $221,667 for Comitis’ outreach team and $120,000 for the landlord recruitment program.

All of those dollars would be generated by sales tax revenue from retail marijuana and other “marijuana products” in the city, according to city documents. Last year, council members passed an ordinance raising the city sales tax on Aurora pot products from 5.75 percent to 7.75 percent. The new contracts would be funded by that two percent increase.

However, city council members could reconsider that sales tax increase next month due to unexpected changes state lawmakers  made to sales taxes on marijuana this year. Instead of decreasing state sales tax on marijuana, which was originally slated occur this summer, lawmakers agreed to increase sales taxes a cumulative 2.1 percent, according to Jason Batchelor, deputy city manager. If the city were to stick with its own proposed increase, which was cemented with an ordinance passed last year, it would result in a roughly 4 percent tax increase to consumers.

Batchelor said he’ll brief council members on the sales tax issue at an upcoming study session.

The city is expected to rake in about $7 million in revenue from sales and excise taxes on marijuana in 2017, according to city budget documents.

Last year, city council members made international headlines when they agreed to annually allocate $1.5 million in pot tax revenues from 2016 through 2018 for homeless programs in the city. That pool of money could be used to cover the cost of the new contracts through next year.

Each of the providers will be required to submit annual and quarterly reports to city staff throughout the duration of the contract, according to McKittrick.

The city will review each provider on an annual basis through an appropriations process, according to city documents. The agreements also include a slew of termination clauses that the city could exercise if officials so choose.

Council members Marsha Berzins, Barb Cleland, Charlie Richardson, as well as Mayor Steve Hogan, were absent from the Monday night special study session. The seven council members present, steered by Mayor Pro Tem Angela Lawson, unanimously approved the contracts.

Tags: Aurora, Aurora homelessness program, aurora mental health, Colorado, comitis, feed, homeless