TAMPA — Board members of Hillsborough's leading children's agency signed off on a $20.4 million plan that for the first time requires local nonprofits to compete for contracts to provide such services as mentoring for pregnant teens and education for low-income migrant families.
The Children's Board of Hillsborough County, which is financed by property taxes, undertook the sometimes controversial grant program as part of an effort to increase accountability and whittle the focus to children age 8 and younger.
In previous years, the Children's Board simply renewed contracts each year, and programs for older children were part of the mix.
The $20.4 million includes $17.1 million for the 23 programs that won preliminary approval in May, as well as $3.3 million for 10 additional groups that made successful appeals.
All of those nonprofits are required for the first time to produce reports showing how the money is being spent, and what the results are.
Among the winners were Alpha House of Tampa, which got $371,966 to provide countywide education for homeless pregnant women; Florida Institute for Community Studies, which got $232,279 for mentoring programs for families in the South Shores area; and Metropolitan Ministries, which got $1.3 million for a case management program for homeless families.
The Children Board's new grant system cut a number of nonprofits, particularly small ones, out of the loop. In the current year, almost twice as many nonprofits received funding.
Pam Iorio, the former Tampa mayor who is acting chief executive, said in an interview that this may be the template in future years. Instead of "sprinkling" the money around, she said, "the Children's Board would be better off saying, 'Here's the focus, here are the agencies best equipped to show outcomes.' "
Counting roughly $4.3 million more in matching funds given to such agencies as the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County and the Children's Museum of Tampa, the Children's Board will spend nearly $25 million on services in the upcoming fiscal year.
Iorio told directors that her priority is to keep increasing the percentage of the budget spent on direct services versus administration. Last week, she laid off 15 people, which freed up $1.4 million more for next year.
The board will take up the 2012-2013 budget on Sept. 6.