Round Up program to raise $50,000

Anoka’s Round Up for Change program is on target to raise $50,000 in its first year.

“That’s really what we anticipated in the beginning based on what other municipalities and utilities have experienced,” said Finance Director Lori Yager.

The voluntary donation program started Jan. 1 and since then Anoka Municipal Utility electricity customers have donated by having their bills rounded up to the nearest dollar.

With the Round Up for Change program, if a customer’s electric bill is $38.21, it will automatically be rounded up to $39. The remaining 79 cents will be put in a fund that will support causes that meet the city council’s priorities of improving the lives of children, families and seniors in the community.

The highest possible annual donation would be $11.88. It is not tax deductible.

While the program is voluntary, customers must call the utility billing department in order to opt out from participating.

So far that spare change has added up to $13,024, which will in turn be given to non-profits designated by the Anoka City Council.

The fund-raising program was created as a way for people to voluntarily contribute to these causes, which the city typically pays for out of its general fund budget.

The council was pleased to hear the program is having its intended results.

“This is a great program,” said Councilmember Mark Freeburg. “It was a little controversial in the beginning, but it has eliminated a line item on the city’s budget and reduced the taxpayers’ expenses to subsidize these worthy programs.”

When Round Up for Change was introduced, some utility customers disagreed with the city’s decision to automatically include them in the program.

Yager said 72 percent, or 8,500, of the utility’s customers are participating, just slightly above the projected 70 percent participation rate.

Monday the council agreed to use $10,000 of the $13,000 that has already been collected to pay its commitment to Youth First Community of Promise, a neighborhood program that serves students in Anoka, Andover and Ramsey. The $10,000 contribution had been included in the city’s financial plan for 2012, as part of the police budget.

Once enough money has been collected, funds will then be allocated to Alexandra House ($5,000) as well as food shelves that serve Champlin and Dayton, where Anoka Municipal Utility also has customers. Of the funds collected so far, $2,945 have been come from customers served in the Champlin and Dayton areas. City staff is recommending splitting those funds between the CROSS and CEAP food shelves, which serve Champlin and Dayton residents.

Yager said she expects to come back to the council in November with a follow-up report. At this time the city can also discuss what other local charities could be supported with funds raised through Round Up for Change.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]