Closing in on the first year of Anoka’s Round up for Change Program, the city was able to make thousands of dollars in allocations based on donations from customers of its electric utility.
Round Up was instituted in January when Anoka Municipal Utility customers’ bills were automatically rounded up to the nearest dollar.
That spare change was being used to help a few specific non-profits in the area, which the city typically funded in its budget.
Anyone who did not want to participate had to opt out of the program.
Current donations for the year are $43,260, according to Finance Director Lori Yager. There are a total 7,713 customers participating.
Already the city had designated $25,000 of those donations, including $15,000 for Youth First Community of Promise, a neighborhood program for at risk youth, as well as the domestic abuse shelter, Alexandra House.
Because the utility also has customers in Champlin and Dayton, donations were also made to CROSS and CEAP – food shelves serving those particular Hennepin County communities.
When the program was put in place it did receive criticism from some ratepayers because of its opt out requirement.
“In the beginning of the round up program there was a lot of apprehension from some folks, and I respected that,” said Councilmember Mark Freeburg. “But we’ve taken line items from the police budget that were paid for by the taxpayers and compensated with nickels and dimes of volunteer money from this program.”
He said it was lightening the load of the taxpayer.
Most customers are donating an average of $5 to $6 a year. The highest possible annual donation could be $11.88.
“I don’t see a loss in this program at all,” Freeburg said.
The council met Dec. 10 to talk about how much funds were available, where those contributions were coming from and where they were going in the future, according to Yager.
After that session, the council agreed to donate additional money to CROSS, CEAP, Alexandra House and Youth First.
It then decided to give $5,000 to the ACBC Food Shelf and $2,000 to Stepping Stone Emergency Housing.
Anoka resident Barbara Baldwin suggested the city consider using some of those funds to help customers who are struggling financially and having a hard time paying their electric bills.
“I would think that would be the first place we would donate our money,” said Baldwin. “We have a lot of elderly and a lot of families who are out of work are struggling to keep the lights on.”
Mayor Phil Rice said that is something the council could consider in the future.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]