Lafayette House Officials Disagree with Auditor Citing Red Tape Tapping Local Fees
A local domestic violence shelter director says a state auditor’s report isn’t the reality in Southwest Missouri.
The Missouri State Auditor said women are being turned away from domestic violence shelters in Missouri at a higher rate than other states and is calling for a more centralized system for getting locally assessed fees to the domestic abuse shelters. Essentially sending monies collected for local shelters to Jefferson City first. But at Lafayette House officials say neither of those is a problem.
R enita Kitchingham is the residential director at Lafayette House now, but sebenteen years ago she came here with two children as a
client. Asked what would happen if they had turned her away? She answered, ” There’s no question, I know I would be dead. Um that’s, women know when it’s time. And it’s so scary trying to make that decision. And when you finally get to that place and you do make that decision, um, you need that support immediately.”
She said she found immediate help at Lafayette House. Still today
Lafayette turns no one away. Even putting abuse survivors on couches that are pull out beds when crowded.
It’s not that way across the state. State Auditor Nicole Galloway said in a press conference Monday, that eighteen counties did not disburse optional fees/fines collected by the courts and for marriage licenses in some cases because they didn’t know where to disburse them. Galloway said, “T he odds that survivors of domestic violence receive the help they need in Missouri should not depend on which county they live in .”
So Galloway is calling for centralizing the fees collected in counties and municipalities at the state level. She emphasized, ” The shelters would still receive the local funding, however the local government would not have to take the time to administer these funds.”
Jasper County treasurer Denise Rohr said it’s not much work. Jasper County actually has a special board appointed by the county commission that meets every six months to disperse funds and they have toured Lafayette House to get an understanding of services and how the funds are spent.
Galloway’s streamlining funds to the state worries Lafayette House Executive Director Alison Malinowski Sunday, “That feels like a much bigger bureaucracy than my local treasurer or county commissioners giving me a call and saying tell me about this.”
Of the county board, she said, “I think it’s very positive. Our local government knows what we are providing to the citizens of their county and if we send it to Jefferson City, frankly we’re gonna lose all that.”
It’s an issue of local control something Malinowski Sunday fears could be lost under Galloway’s proposal. Malinowski Sunday said all five counties served by Lafayette House have policies to collect the optional fees and disburse them.
She said, “Yes, we do have to send out five different applications to get the funds from five different counties but that is not cumbersome. That happens once a year and at at he end of the year we send them back a report that says you sent us this much money and we provided this many services. I like that.”
But those multiple filings are something the auditor called Red Tape.
But Malinowski Sunday disagrees. While the county collected optional fines are a small part of the funding pie for shelters she said they are vital as regular revenue for essential services and a source of matching dollars for her to get other grants. She adds applying for other domestic violence funding from the state requires grant writing, reviews before its allocated and it’s not clear how much will be allotted.
Kitchingham herself questions sending the local funds to the state as the shelter also relies on all kinds of donations to help women and kids. She said, “I t would have to go through a lot more hands and I think not as much money would be filtered down to where it needs to be.”
Malinowski believes the state laws allowing for the collection of fines are what is confusing. She explained, “There are three separate pieces of legislation that allow the counties or municipalities to collect these fees and they’ve layered them so it’s not simple to understand what you can cannot charge these fees on. I don’t know I’d call that red tape. I know there’s some confusion and I do think the laws can be simplified.”
To see Auditor Galloway’s complete report click here.