In fiscal year 2010-11, $542,500 in state funding was allocated to the Arizona branch of Project Challenge with a three-to-one match with federal funds, according to Project Challenge officials.
Total funding for Arizona Project Challenge in fiscal year 2010-11 was $2.1 million including about $1.6 million in federal match dollars for the program, officials say. Those funding levels have been suspended and no dollar amount was included in the current state budget approved by the Arizona Legislature, both Project Challenge volunteers and staff agree. According to Jeff Guldner, Arizona Project Challenge Foundation Board of Directors president, all but $100,000 has been raised of the needed $542,500 to complete the program’s second class of the year.
“It was a surprise to us for a number of different reasons,” he said in a Sept. 20 phone interview of the program’s funding getting yanked by the Arizona Legislature. “From a cost effectiveness (scope) this program gets three-to-one federal matching and it’s an effective program that is giving a second chance and really saving lives for kids who are going to end up, most likely, doing bad things.”
The Arizona Project Challenge Foundation’s original mission is altering with the times, Mr. Guldner says.
“The project challenge foundation was originally established for scholarships for the graduates to get after graduation ... so they can continue to invest in their education,” he explained. “We have to think a little bit differently about our budget.”
Bridging the funding gap for this current fiscal year is the key priority for the foundation, Mr. Guldner contends.
“We are making commitments to help the funding gap so we can support this funding need and hopefully getting it back to the right level,” he said. “We have a little bit, but we don’t have enough and it is not a sustainable approach.”
Mr. Guldner says finding enough will be through a new approach at the state level.
“Part of the doing things a little bit differently is bringing people on to bring sustainable funding sources that make sense,” he said.
That person is Mike Williams of Williams and Assoc. of Phoenix.
Mr. Guldner refused to disclose how much the foundation is paying for Mr. Williams’ services.
“I represent most of the police associations at the state legislature,” he said of his role as a state-level lobbyist. “This seems to me to fit in with law enforcement to use some of their funding sources.”
According to Kostas Kalaitzidis, Pinal County Attorney’s Office spokesman, $2,000 of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations dollars have been given to help the Arizona Project Challenge going.
“It is money that comes to us through forfeiture of assets of cash used or garnered from illegal activity,” he said of RICO dollars in a Sept. 20 phone interview. “It will be spent to enhance law enforcement activity and reduce illegal activity. By Arizona law, the county attorney of each county is the judiciary of that money.”
Arizona Project Challenge is a good fit for prevention efforts funded by RICO dollars, Mr. Kalaitzidis says.
“You can give money to organizations that attempt to prevent crime such as Mothers Against (Drunk Driving) ... project challenge is a part of that,” he explained of efforts that pursue prevention of illegal activity. “But it is not a sustainable source of funding because you never know how much you are going to have.”
A lot of things can be done in a positive manner with money derived from illegal activity, Mr. Kalaitzidis contends.
“We take money from bad people and we try to do something good with it,” he said of the usage of RICO dollars.
According to Mr. Guldner, there is roughly about $50 million in county coffers of funding derived through asset forfeitures gained through seized funds.
“I am pretty confident I can get it and I wouldn’t take it if I didn’t think I could,” he said of acquiring RICO dollars that can go toward prevention efforts in tune with reducing gang activity and reducing law enforcement time and expense. “That is the area we are looking at now.”
While he intends to tap RICO funds, Mr. Guldner says he is not sure where funding will come from — but it’s coming, he contends.
I think we will be able to get enough to cover the cost,” he said. “Will they get it in 30 days? No, but certainly by the end of the year.”
One source he knows the funding will not come from is the state’s General Fund, Mr. Williams says.
“I am not looking to go to the General Fund and having winners and losers there,” he pointed out. “If I can find some law enforcement dollars to go toward prevention because this program has a history of having positive results.”
To learn more about Arizona Project Challenge go to http://www.ngycp.org.