~ by Rick Langenberg ~
The Woodland Park City Council would have made Ebenezer Scrooge proud last week.
By a unanimous vote, the council endorsed the recommendations of the city’s community investment group and only funded $20,000 for local non-profits and social service organizations. This is one of the lowest amounts of community-based monies given out in recent years. Unlike past years, the council this time refused to budge.
In fact, as far as any additional funds for needy causes or groups, the council and local officials replied, “Bah Humbug.”
With a tight city budget, prompted by multi-million dollar capital projects, the elected leaders didn’t have much of a choice. Even a last-minute bid by Mayor Neil Levy to allot more monies to the Cruise Above the Clouds festival was slashed by the council’s fiscal blade.
Levy indicated that the $1,000 proposed award for the Cruise Above the Clouds amounted to practically an insult, based on the success of the annual festival and the monies they allot to a bevy of community organizations. The group had requested $5,000 in community investment dollars. “That is the biggest disparity…from what they bring to our community,” blasted Levy, when addressing leaders of the community investment committee at last week’s council meeting “That just stands out. To me, that is a big oversight.”
Leaders of the community investment committee agreed with Levy, but basically confirmed the inevitable: The city had limited funds to work with in 2017 and was really generous in dolling out any monies, period. Darwin Naccarato, a leader of the community group, stated the amount of requests far exceeded the available pot of monies.
Other council members shared Levy’s concerns, but stopped short of deciding to further dip into the city’s limited reserve fund to give the Cruise group more money for 2017.
Phil Latham, a representative of the Cruise Above the Clouds, said their organization understood the city’s predicament and could accept the meager $1,000 contribution. He indicated that possibly the city could help the group in other ways, such as reduced costs for certain services.
The council also toiled over the whole community investment situation. Councilman Noel Sawyer suggested that the funds be split into two categories between groups that do events and promote arts, and those that offer social services and philanthropy. Sawyer said he equates community investment dollars to helping less fortunate individuals in the area.
“It’s going to become diluted,” said Sawyer, in describing the competition for the monies.
However, Councilman John Schafer, who has served with the community investment group in recent years, stated that the process has worked quite well and has been fine-tuned. Both he and Naccarato said the committee tried to use the funds in a way that makes an impact in what these groups can achieve.
Several council members and the City Manager David Buttery reminded the elected leaders that the process was set up so the council didn’t have to make these difficult funding decisions themselves. In past years, the council chambers were invaded by representatives of 20 or so community groups that demanded funding.
The community investment committee was then formed to evaluate applications in a more objective manner and to take the politics out the decisions.