UP Looking For Ways to Fund Scholarships

In 2009, former mayor Don Houseman donated $60,000 to the city, to use for scholarships for University Park employees’ children.

In 2010, the first round of scholarships were doled out to 15 students. The students were chosen based on academic merit and financial need, and more than $20,000 was awarded.

The problem now, though, is how the city can keep this up.

During a discussion prior to yesterday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Dick Davis and the councilmen discussed the funding issues but stopped short of developing a sustainable model to keep the scholarships alive.

Davis suggested a small fee —25 to 50 cents— on each utility bill; the money earned would be put toward the scholarship fund. Though residents could opt out of the fee, some councilmen and staff viewed the charge as a tax, a tax they weren’t willing to levy.

The final consensus? Let’s discuss this later.

The Council kicked it back to a committee charged with operating the scholarships. In the next weeks and months, the committee will try to develop a model to raise the money privately.

7 thoughts on “UP Looking For Ways to Fund Scholarships

  • April 6, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Davis’s idea sounds like a good one. If you can opt out with no penalty of any kind, it’s certainly not a tax. It’s a voluntary contribution.

    Assuming 8000 households in UP, with 12 monthly bills per year, at 25 cents per bill, yields $24K per year. If even half the households opt out, that’s still $12K to work with.

    Obviously 50 cents per month would generate twice as much to work with, and strikes me as equally painless, especially toward such a worthy cause.

  • April 6, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    This sounds paranoid, but do we really want city employees to know which residents opted out of donating to a scholarship fund for their children? And would the list of donors be available through some sort of FOIA request?

    Good intentions, bad idea.

    And while we’re on the subject of Dick Davis’ bad ideas, I wonder if he regrets spending all that money on the effort to keep beer and wine out of University Park? Maybe he should have donated it to the scholarship fund instead.

    One more thing, and then I promise I will end my rant. Don Houseman donated $60,000 in 2009 to establish the scholarship fund. That is truly generous and very civic-minded. But within a year, the city gave a full third of it away. To quote Bradford, “The problem now, though, is how the city can keep this up.” You think? What did they expect when they gave away 33% of their founding principal in one year? Did Mr. Houseman expect his gift to fund a scholarship program with a three to four year life span, or (more likely) did he hope that more donations would come in and make the program more or less sustainable over the long term? If it was the latter, what does that say about the city’s stewardship of his donation? If the city wants to attract donors, they need to (if it’s not too late) use the leftover money to start a 501(c)(3) that can accept tax deductible contributions. Nickel and diming homeowners via guilt trip is not the solution.

  • April 7, 2011 at 12:30 am

    Doesn’t sound to me like any of the people giving away one-third of the principal would qualify for a scholarship. Good thing it is going to their children.

    Since the UP Community League is already buying loyalty from the city staff, I mean paying for their bonuses, I suggest the League chip in to continually fund the scholarships for children of the staff. That should keep the staff following orders for a long time. Then they could get Eddie Bernice Johnson to determine who wins the scholarships.

  • April 7, 2011 at 8:50 am

    I agree with the above posters. Who was in charge of giving 1/3 of the money away in a year? If the underlying assets grow by say 10% per year, in order to preserve the initial contribution, the most that should have been given away at the end of year one was $6000. That doesn’t sound like a competent group of people awarding scholarships. Either they are morons that should not be trusted with running a city or they showed favoritism and gave the money away to relatives/friends. Either one is unacceptable.

  • April 7, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I have to agree with Neal and UPDad. Any scholarship/endowment program sits down at the beginning and determines what they can afford to distribute, based on the goals of the program. They can distribute fewer scholarships, less per scholarship, or go out and get more money if they want to give more but still keep money in the bank.

    It would be interesting to know the details of exactly how the whole program was set up in the first place, before asking residents to start contributing.

  • April 7, 2011 at 9:54 am


    The money is currently held in a city’s non-profit Civic Foundation, so that’s already been established.


    The ad-hoc committee decided who would receive the scholarships. None of the members are city employees, according to UP spokesman Steve Mace.

    Feel free to hit me up with any other questions, I might even have the answers.

  • April 7, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Wait, this started 2 years ago, and now it’s something that is MUST have? Please. I think it’s a nice gesture certainly, and I commend Don Houseman for donating the money.

    The point isn’t whether the tax is small, or if people can opt out, it’s whether this is right. And it’s not. Just like it wasn’t right to spend all that money on redoing the perfectly good park on the corner of Lovers and Hillcrest, or changing the name of the fountain across from it.


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