Hallin joins VISTA, forfeits council paychecks

The pay Victoria Hallin earns as a Princeton City Council member the next four months will go to the local historical society and library.

That’s because Hallin has taken a job as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer.

In order to be in VISTA, the volunteer cannot take any outside income, and that includes a city council salary, which in Princeton is $3,090 per year – or $256.25 per month.

Hallin was sworn in as a central Minnesota VISTA volunteer Aug. 3. That leaves close to five months until the end of this year that she would not be able to receive a council salary. That equals about $1,326. Hallin had already been paid up to the early part of September, according to city treasurer Steve Jackson.

The council, with Hallin abstaining, passed a motion last Thursday to do a couple financial maneuvers to redirect the last five months of Hallin’s council salary.

Money from the city’s general fund cannot go to a nonprofit. A motion was made to reduce that amount of money from what the city’s Princeton Wine & Spirits fund would normally send to the general fund, and instead have the fund send that money to two nonprofits that Hallin named to receive it – Princeton Area Library and the Mille Lacs County Historical Society. Each is to receive half of the five months of salary.

VISTA, which stands for Volunteers in Service to America, was founded in 1965 as a national program to fight poverty, and Hallin’s work will be tied in with one facet of poverty. Hallin will be working to line up low-income youth with local job shadow opportunities as a guide in determining what areas of future employment they might like to enter. Youth can work for about six hours per month over a six-month period at a business or industry to see if they would like that kind of work, Hallin said.

Chris Fastner, who manages the 14-county VISTA region that includes Princeton, said the work Hallin will be doing for one year in VISTA, will be a pilot project for Princeton. He noted that such a project has been used in the Brainerd area.

Hallin will receive a monthly living allowance equivalent to 105 percent of the region’s poverty level – or $946 per month. She will also receive basic medical coverage. After she has completed the one-year project, she gets to choose between either a $1,500 stipend, or a $5,550 payment toward schooling. Hallin said she plans to choose the $1,500.

Hallin is seeking a third four-year term on the council in this November’s election and if re-elected, the council would have to take more action to deal with her salary for the months in 2013, up until next Aug. 3.

Family Pathways, which has a thrift store and teen center in Princeton will be the host agency for the VISTA project. The Initiative Foundation, based in Little Falls, provides the VISTA money through a grant it receives from the Corporation for National and Community Service, according to Fastner.

The VISTA program was modeled after the Peace Corps, whose volunteers have the same arrangement, Fastner said.

“I want to help break the cycle of poverty,” Hallin said of the low-income youth she plans to work with.