By Sean Rice
Members of the non-profit Celina International Association (CIA) are concerned a proposed trimming of Celina's general fund budget could jeopardize the student exchange program with Japan.
A small group of Celina students have traveled to Nandan- Cho, Japan, each year for 11 years. Each student pays for a majority of their traveling costs, with CIA fund-raising and the city helping pay for activities.
Celina Mayor Sharon LaRue removed the cash support given to the CIA in budget documents being prepared for the 2005 budget. The budget has not yet been approved by city council.
Last year, Celina spent about $3,000 on the program from the general fund, which totals close to $5 million. Part of Celina's share last year included $1,900 to sponsor one student's trip cost.
Funds to support an adult Japanese delegation coming to Celina were left in the budget. Members of Celina City Council's finance committee will be meeting to work out the 2005 budget. That committee meeting will be scheduled at Monday's council meeting. Member Rick Bachelor said funding for Japan has not been discussed among council members in budget meetings already held.
CIA members also are complaining the link between the CIA and city administration is broken because Joan Wurster, an administrative assistant with the city, resigned from the CIA board in October.
Apparently, Wurster had been performing many of the CIA's tasks on city time, including receiving applications from eager students and coordinating events.
"It would be extremely difficult for the board to accomplish its goals without this vital administrative link," CIA members wrote in a letter to the mayor and The Daily Standard.
Mayor LaRue told The Daily Standard she has not yet spoken with the CIA board on the budget proposal and refused to comment on specific concerns of the CIA.
"We haven't even talked about it yet," she said, adding the CIA letter printed in Friday's edition of The Daily Standard contains innuendoes and misconceptions. "I asked to have a meeting with them."
LaRue said the proposed funding cut is aimed at helping the ailing general fund budget and said the city will continue to provide in-kind services to the CIA, such as transportation.
Julie Fleck, owner of Bella's Italian Grille and CIA member, said the student trip will go forward this summer with board members picking up Wurster's work dropped by the city.
This year, Celina's students will be traveling to Awaji South, the name of the newly merged city in Japan that includes Nandan-Cho and two other cities.