City revisits grant funding for local non-profits in FY 2013-14 Budget

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Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm

Reporter – News Analyst

Fernandina Beach City Commission
Fernandina Beach City Commission members prepare for meeting.

At a half-hour long special meeting on October 1, 2013, the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) returned to the task of allocating $10,000 from the FY2013-14 budget in response to grant requests from local nonprofit agencies.  When the final vote was taken, the FBCC approved $5,000 for the Nassau County Council on Aging, $3,000 for Nassau Mental Health (Starting Point), $1,000 for the Barnabas Center and $1,000 for Micah’s Place.  The allocations were approved on a 3-2 vote with Mayor Sarah Pelican and Commissioner Pat Gass dissenting.

DSCN1136Upon gaveling the meeting to order, Mayor Pelican immediately recognized Vice Mayor Charlie Corbett, who complained about what he characterized as unfounded criticism from the community over the city’s failure to fund social service nonprofit agencies in the new budget.

DSCN1135“In the last few days I received some emails about basically some letter or column that was on a local blog and social media which made a claim that this commission was buying chairs and carpeting instead of giving money to the nonprofits.  Well, I’d like to read some numbers off here.”  He cited the city’s declining support trend for such funding from FY 2008-09 ($103,264) to last year ($45,000).

He continued, “My purpose in doing this is that this is the only commission in the last 6 years that has not reduced funds for nonprofits.  So whoever wrote that blog, whoever that is, didn’t bother to check any of this, they just bloviated.  In my opinion whoever wrote that was a buffoon that didn’t do nothin’, didn’t bother to do their homework, check nothing,, and bloviated and rattled on about nothing.  So I like to make sure that it is emphasized that this commission has given exactly the same amount of money as the commission did last year.  So we’re not reducing anything, and this is the first time in 6 years that that hasn’t happened.  So I’d like that to go down for the record.”

Commissioner Arlene Filkoff
Commissioner Arlene Filkoff

Commissioner Arlene Filkoff asked City Comptroller Patti Clifford to confirm that the city had budgeted the same amount to fund non-profit grants this year as in the previous year.  Clifford responded that once the FBCC had instructed her to put the $10,000 back into that account that they had previously stripped out during budget workshops, that was true.

Corbett jumped in, “So in other words, it didn’t get reduced, did it?”  Clifford agreed.

Filkoff said, “I understand the allocation exercise tonight, but originally in the budget process we were talking about allocating $35,000 for non profits for FY 2013-14.”  Clifford recapped how the initial budget placeholder had dropped to $10,000 for discretionary allocation following earlier budget discussions of the FBCC.  Vice Mayor Charlie Corbett did not attend some of those meetings.

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Corbett suggested “for discussion” that the FBCC consider allocating to the requesting social service agencies the same amounts as in the previous year.

Commissioner Pat Gass
Commissioner Pat Gass

Commissioner Gass once more voiced her objections to government’s deciding which non-profits deserve public support, “because everyone has a different idea.”  However, recognizing that not all commissioners shared her viewpoint, she offered an alternative:  divide the unallocated $10,000 among all the non-profits in the city.  According to a list she had compiled, this would entail supporting 31 agencies or programs.

Comptroller Clifford interjected, explaining that not all 31 of these organizations had applied for grant funding, meaning that the city had not had an opportunity to review their justification or financial statements.  Gass asked, “Where is it written that unless you apply you [get no funding]?”

Pelican reminded commissioners that the city’s initial announcement to previously funded nonprofits was purposefully worded to inform prospective applicants that due to budget constraints, prospects for funding in FY 2013-14 were not promising.

DSCN1130Commissioner Ed Boner supported broadening the list of potential grant recipients to include Episcopal Children’s Services (ECS), citing the additional benefits from a 19:1 match for that organization.  Corbett opined that because of the broad regional reach of that organization, ECS had other resources to tap.

Commissioner Arlene Filkoff, in response to Gass’ suggestion to broaden the pool of recipients said that the city’s philosophy in recent times has been to limit financial support to service organizations as opposed to event-related organizations.  Boner agreed, citing support for assistance to the elderly over the arts and to those organizations with strong volunteer bases.  Filkoff added that she supported limiting grant funding to those organizations that had applied and those that have the greatest impact on the city.

Gass was not persuaded.  “We are not qualified to play God,” she said.  She was certain that some in the community would also cite the impact of arts, conservation efforts and other activities as educational benefits for the community.

Pelican added that she would like to see some support for Episcopal Children’s Services and the Film Festival.

Finally, Corbett moved and Filkoff seconded a motion to allocate the $10,000 as follows:  Nassau County Council on Aging – $5,000; Nassau Mental Health (Starting Point) – $3,000;  Barnabas Center – $1,000; Micah’s Place – $1,000.

Boner supported the motion, while Pelican and Gass remained opposed.  The motion passed on a 3-2 vote.

While several members of the public were in attendance, the Mayor did not seek public input during the meeting.

During budget meetings and workshops throughout the summer, the FBCC had considered the allocation of $60,000 to meet social service needs and non-profit grant requests.  Of that amount, Commissioners set aside $25,000 to cover waived sewer bills for qualified elderly, indigent or low-income homeowners.  At that time they also agreed to grant the Amelia Island Museum of History $10,000 on two grounds:  because the Museum receives no additional funding from Nassau County and because the Museum performs work for the city by staffing the Marine Welcome Center.  They then “transferred” $15,000 from City grants to the Capital Improvement Fund to increase the funding for the purchase a replacement bus for the Parks and Recreation Department.  Initially, the Commission of four (Corbett was absent) could not agree on the remaining $10,000 and so it was eliminated from the Proposed Budget. $10,000 was added back into the Adopted Budget after much haranguing on September 3rd as a budget place holder to be allocated at a future date.

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The final allocations are represented in the spreadsheet below.  Note that agencies that have requested past support are also listed as budget placeholders, even though they have not currently requested funding.  (Source:  Fernandina Beach Finance Department)

 

 BUDGET

 BUDGET

 REQUESTED

 2012-2013

 2013-2014

 allocated

   525.7500 Civil Air Patrol
   539.7700 Keep Nassau Beautiful @
   552.1000 Nassau Cty Econ Dev Board – Comm
   552.2000 Chamber Cruise Feasibility
   552.2010 Access In Motion
   564.1000 Council On Aging

 5,000

 5,000

 30,000

   564.2000 Episcopal Children’s Services

 3,400

   564.2010 Boys & Girls Club of Nasssau
   564.3000 Social Services For Aged/Poor

 25,000

 25,000

 25,000

   564.4000 New Hope Inc.
   564.5000 Amelia Room Inc.
   564.6000 Nassau Mental Health (Starting Point)

 3,000

 3,000

 10,000

   564.7000 Friends Of The Carpenter
   564.8000 Nassau County Volunteers
   564.9000  Micah’s Place Inc.

 1,000

 1,000

 1,000

   565.4000 Barnabas Center

 1,000

 1,000

 5,000

   565.5000 Samaritan Clinic of Barnabas Center
   569.1000 Police Athletic League  **
   569.2000 Communities In Schools
   569.3000 Hurricane Katrina Relief
   569.4000 Shop with a COP
   569.5000 Coalition for the Homeless
   569.8000 Waived Permit Fees and Charges
   574-1000 Amelia Arts Academy
   574-2000 Amelia Island Film Festival
   574.3000 Arts Council
   574.7650 July 4Th Fireworks  ***
   574.8200 Book Island Festival
   574.8400 Amelia Island Museum

 10,000

 10,000

 15,000

   574.8600 Family Support Services
   574.8700 Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival
Other
          TOTAL

 45,000

 45,000

 89,400

@ $1,000 Budget in the Sanitation Fund (440)

 1,000

 1,000

 1,000

Suanne Thamm

Editor’s Note:  Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city.  We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

October 2, 2013 8:12 p.m.

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