During its last budget season the Moab City Council discussed how to give money to local organizations. Should they continue to offer waivers of municipal fees for some causes and events? Or would it be better to directly sponsor events and organizations? The council decided to stop giving fee waivers—starting some time in the future—and start giving money directly.
Now the council has to work through the nuts and bolts of how to do that. At the Wednesday, July 25 meeting of the city council, they addressed a proposed resolution put together by city staff. The resolution provides two avenues for giving: one process for sponsoring community organizations and another for sponsoring events in lieu of waiving fees.
The new process will allow events to petition the city for funding, according to City Manager David Everitt. “They could ask for as much money as they want. It doesn’t have to go to fees necessarily. It gives that organization the choice of how to manage their money without the city getting in the business of saying it has to be specifically the amount that it would cost for your fees ... the expectation is the city receives some acknowledgement and benefit from being a sponsor, even if it’s only in the pamphlet,” Everitt said.
The council made several changes to the original resolution, striking a clause that required community organizations to be physically located in the city to receive funds. They also decided that after a committee makes a recommendation it will be the city council—not the city manager—who makes the final call on how to disburse funds. “It’s going to be political regardless [of who does it],” said Council Member Rani Derasary. “If we don’t do it, we’re just passing the buck. I think as the [people] who were elected to manage people’s money, we should be the ones at least having some role at some point.”
Derasary expressed concerns about a lack of specificity in the guidelines, a concern that was not echoed by other council members. “I felt like this is a really great start but there’s a little more specificity I would like to see before I was ready to vote for it. We have some language in here about providing for social services and cultural programs to residents, and later we have a reference to social, recreational, cultural... It would certainly help me and I’m thinking if I was a staff member on this committee where I had to make recommendations of what applications to approve, to have more specificity just to know if something didn’t qualify,” Derasary said.
The council also had an extended conversation about a possible deadline for funding applications. The original proposal named Aug. 15 as the deadline, but Mayor Emily Niehaus suggested that community organizations should submit their applications by September or October, and events should make their requests in February. “I would have the deadline [for event applications] to be … February because that’s when people are starting to apply for those special events permits,” said Niehaus. In her vision, the council would continue to accept fee waivers until the event sponsorship program starts in February.
Several event organizers in the community reacted to the discussion. Theresa King, an organizer for the Moab Arts Festival among other events, was present at the meeting. “It’s a work in progress,” King said. “I think they have a lot of things that they’re pursuing as far as how to [disburse funds] … I think the intent is good.”
Cassie Paup, assistant director for the Moab Folk Festival, had some concerns. “I do like the idea of the city supporting nonprofit organizations with grant money. There is no indication of the amount available to each applicant,” Paup said. “... It does create more paperwork for event producers and possibly the council as well. It may even be more difficult for small grassroots organizations to benefit from the funding. For instance, the proposed deadline is in two weeks for next year. Many organizations may not know about this in time to pull together an application. It seems that applying some of these criteria for fee waivers would be easier on the council.”
The council will further consider the proposal at a future meeting.