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Mayor’s Christmas Tree Association healthier, but spent less on benefits, tax records show

The Mayor’s Christmas tree, a 100-foot-tall Douglas fir, was unloaded at Crown Center Square on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, after making a 2,000-mile journey from Oregon. Kansas City Mayor Sly James and a celebrity guest will flip the switch during a lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 27.
The Mayor’s Christmas tree, a 100-foot-tall Douglas fir, was unloaded at Crown Center Square on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, after making a 2,000-mile journey from Oregon. Kansas City Mayor Sly James and a celebrity guest will flip the switch during a lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 27. Keith Myers/The Star

Kansas City Mayor Sly James will light the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Friday, kicking off a season of fund-raising and gift-giving by the venerable Mayor’s Christmas Tree Association, or MCTA.

The MCTA, a non-profit charity, is in better financial shape than it has been in years, tax records show. Fundraising has gone much better under James than his predecessor, Mark Funkhouser.

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But it appears the fund’s balance has also been helped by handing out relatively fewer gifts to the poor.

In the 2013-2014 season — the last for which tax records are available online — the MCTA raised $88,198. But it gave out just $44,518 in benefits, mostly in the form of gift cards to Walmart and some toys.

That was the lowest gift-giving total during James’ time in office. In 1997, the fund paid out nearly $153,000 in charity benefits.

Partially as a result of the smaller gifts, the MCTA’s fund balance grew in 2014 to a robust $171,490. That’s substantially better than the final year of Funkhouser’s term, when the fund ended the 2010-2011 period with just $78,390 in the bank.

And, to be fair, the lackluster fundraising under Funkhouser meant fewer gifts, too. The MCTA handed out just $28,550 in gift cards his final year.

But the Mayor’s Christmas Tree under James could have spent every dime it raised in 2013-2014 and still have had more money in the bank than when Funkhouser left office.

We’ll have to watch for the returns from the 2014-2015 season to see if the trend has continued. The Mayor’s Christmas Tree Association appears healthier than it’s been in years, but that health may have been created by providing less help to the needy in Kansas City.

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