The Haines Borough Assembly on Tuesday passed a motion to approve funding for local nonprofits. Locals speaking out on behalf of Chilkat Valley Preschool pleaded with the assembly to increase their share, but in the end, the education center was left with just 30 percent of its original request.
The allocation of funding for nonprofits was one of a couple decisions that the assembly made on Tuesday. The meeting went on for four and a half hours and included an executive session. That’s where the assembly boots out the public and talks about a specific issue in private. No motions can be made in executive session, but it was decided afterward to accept borough manager Dave Sosa’s resignation without prejudice. The assembly unanimously voted for Sosa to come up with an advertisement for his job and explore other options to fill in the gap between his departure and when an interim manager is hired.
During much of the marathon meeting, however, the assembly spun their wheels, going back and forth on various questions and definitions.
One of those lengthy discussions centered around money for nonprofits and whether to turn the budget process upside down to give more money to the preschool. The preschool received $3,900. They asked for $13,000. Here’s preschool board president Alissa Henry:
“I want you to understand the impact that the loss of funds has on an organization like Chilkat Valley Preschool. Like it or not, we have grown to rely on borough grant funding, we’ve been receiving it for over 15 years now and it’s an essential part of our budget.”
Henry went on to say they are fundraising for programs and for a new facility to house the school.
“Obviously at one time, the borough understood that it is their responsibility to support early childhood education,” Henry said. “But it seems recently that has changed with the loss of providing us with a facility and now the loss in funding. That is really discouraging to the young families in Haines.”
Preschool board member Lexie DeWitt questioned the process of how it is decided who gets what. She said that the school is an integral part of the community.
“Our preschool provides jobs, educational resources and supports parents who are some of our business owners; fisherman, cooks, borough employees – those who live here all year ‘round,” a tearful DeWitt said. “Please support us as our children are our future, your future, and hopefully Haines’ future.”
Sosa said how the money is doled out is based on a 34-point ranking system. The nonprofits are graded according to a committee consensus on the importance and community impact, among other factors. Four local nonprofits received 100 percent of their requested funding – The Southeast Senior Center/Catholic Charities got $6,600, Southeast Alaska Independent Living got $5,000, Lynn Canal Counseling got $15,000 and the Southeast Alaska State Fair got $17,000.
The $64,000 set aside for nonprofits for FY16 comes from three sources: The general fund, also known as the community chest, the medical service area fund and the economic development/tourism fund.
Before the assembly voted to approve the funding distribution, Ron Jackson made a motion to try and remedy the preschool’s plea for more money. He suggested taking money from Title III forest receipts funds, giving it to Takshanuk Watershed Council and using Takshanuk’s general-fund chunk for the preschool. The idea originally came from Takshanuk, but the motion was rejected. The Title III money has already been allotted for the bridge at Excursion Inlet. And, Sosa said, to move money around like that would require a lengthy process including the development of an ordinance and public hearings.
The discussion also touched on the fact that $14,000 was given to the Haines Animal Rescue Kennel earlier this year, which left less money for other nonprofits. Here’s assembly member Mike Case.
“We gave away $14,000 roughly, of the community fund to fund HARK, which is not a donation, that’s a payment of services. If we had to do this over again, I think we would not do that. Then we would have that $14,000 to distribute to the people that requested it and we would have gotten pretty close to what they wanted.”
During the discussion, some assembly members were more sympathetic than others when it came to money for nonprofits. Margaret Friedenauer suggested reevaluating the process during the next budget cycle.
“Do we make some sort of donation to the Chilkat Valley Community Foundation for them to distribute perhaps?” she asked. “I think we also need to realize, like Carol said, nonprofits are hugely important. I mean, we just passed an ordinance giving cruise-ship waivers…”
Diana Lapham acknowledged the importance of all the agencies but advised them to start pinching their pennies. George Campbell said flat out that the borough should use the money from the community fund to pay for projects like the deteriorating Lutak Dock and wastewater treatment plant instead of some of the nonprofits.
“The community chest is supposed to be if we’ve got extra slush funds,” Campbell urged. “Folk, we don’t. We don’t have the money. We’ve got lots of places we’re having to put our money. I think right now we should take that money and put it toward our wastewater treatment plant.”
The assembly passed the distribution list as is, 5-1, with Campbell opposed.
UPDATE: Borough manager Dave Sosa said Thursday that HARK did decline to accept that $14,000 and so it will be redistributed. It will be left up to the assembly how that money is spent and will be brought up at a future meeting. He added that in regard to the preschool this allotment of money is in addition to in-kind support, including rent, that the borough has provided to CVP.
Fund 01 Community Chest
Big Brothers Big Sisters-$1,800, Haines Friends of Recycling-$3,500, Alaska Avalanche Info Center-$2,800, Haines Dolphin Swim Team-$2,160, Takshanuk Watershed Council-$3,901.50, Chilkat Valley Preschool-$3,901.50
Fund 02 Medical Service Area
Southeast Senior Services-$6,600. Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL)-$5,000, Lynn Canal Counseling-$15,000
Fund 23 Economic Development/Tourism
Southeast Alaska State Fair-$17,000, Haines Friends of Recycling $500
KHNS will have more stories from the meeting, including discussions on skier days and the Chilkoot River Corridor.