In the last 15 or so years, nonprofit agencies in Haines have grown to rely on yearly grants from the borough. But now some on the assembly are voicing concerns that the borough can no longer afford to dole out the annual chunk of cash. The subject was brought up at Tuesday’s assembly meeting, but the discussion about how to use the borough money historically set aside for nonprofits got tabled for three months.
For the last two weeks, Chilkat Valley Preschool office manager Tracey Harmon has been putting in long hours on a borough nonprofit grant application. To her dismay, she learned Wednesday morning, that not only did the conversation about nonprofit grants get delayed for three months by the assembly, it might not happen at all. Last year, CVP got nearly $4,000 from the borough. The year before that, it was $13,000.
“Every year, CVP applies for the borough grant, the community chest,” she says. “I’ve been working on it for the past two weeks, I’ve probably spent 20 to 40 hours, I don’t even know, and I just found out. We’ve literally spent more money getting the grant ready, and then they want to tell us the day before it’s due, just forget it”
To be clear, there was no application crafted for FY17 at all. Harmon was using last year’s template with last year’s deadline. But she says she knew the application deadline falls around this time each year, so she went with it.
There is no updated application on the borough’s website, and no mention of FY17 grants to nonprofits.
That’s why Assemblymember Margaret Friedenauer requested the discussion item be added to this week’s meeting agenda. In the borough’s draft budget, then-interim-manager Brad Ryan noted that the $32,500 set aside as assembly appropriations in the general fund is again allotted to nonprofits. But, the final budget doesn’t specify where the money should go. Here’s Friedenauer’s motion:
“Identify the $32,500 assembly appropriations in the general fund, and the $15,000 assembly appropriations in medical service area fund, and the $17,500 assembly appropriations in the tourism and economic development fund as being for grants to community nonprofit organizations. Advertise for applications for those grants, and establish an ad hoc committee to evaluate those grant requests.”
Last year, and in years past, money from three different funds went toward the nonprofit grants. For example, in FY16, the Southeast Alaska State Fair got $17,000 from the tourism fund, while Southeast Senior Services got $6,600 from the medical service area fund. In total, last year, 11 nonprofits got grants ranging from $500 to $17,000.
But that was last year. Even back then, some assembly members cautioned that the group should cut back its nonprofit grants because times are tough. Those sentiments were echoed again at this week’s meeting. Assemblywoman Diana Lapham says nonprofits shouldn’t rely on that money. She says it’s time for the borough to scale back its spending.
“The qualifications for that nonprofit community chest fund is once everything else is funded, then the possibility of using that community chest for nonprofits has a clear green light,” Lapham says. “We don’t have everything funded”
Lapham says she understands how important nonprofits are to the community, but it simply no longer makes financial sense for the borough to continue giving out grants.
Before the discussion could continue, Assemblyman Mike Case moved to table it for three months. Mayor Jan Hill announced that once the motion to table is out, the discussion stops. The vote was a tie, with Friedenauer, Ron Jackson and Tresham Gregg opposed to putting off the discussion. Hill broke the tie in favor of tabling the nonprofit grant conversation for three months.
At the end of the meeting, Friedenauer expressed her dissatisfaction with the way the debate had abruptly ended. She says the borough should give the nonprofits a clear answer – one way or the other – about the money they’ve come to count on.
“By passing the budget with the intention that we had, we need to be able to give them a signal that they shouldn’t be counting on this money now, not in three months.”
Friedenauer says she plans on bringing the issue up at a future meeting.