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Local News

Goleta City Council Alters Funding Guidelines for Local Nonprofits

The Goleta City Council is altering funding agreements for local nonprofit and government agencies that provide some of Goleta’s most essential services, and outlined the changes this week.

The council unanimously agreed to adopt nonprofit agency guidelines in fiscal year 2019-20, and approved a one-year process for fiscal year 2018-19 to support other agencies for nonprofits and services funded in fiscal year 2017-18.

Organizations can approach the City Council with requests for funding.

The process will allow for a regular request-for-proposal process as funds become available, and the City Council determines service needs, Deputy City Manager Carmen Nichols said.

Previously, it has been practice for the City Council at a regular meeting, or through its budget process, to approve a funding request to serve the identified need, according to Nichols.

The restriction and limitation terms have been the subject of debate.

The guidelines prohibit "agencies (and affiliates) receiving funding from the city from campaigning, endorsing, and/or fundraising for candidates running for elected office for a city of Goleta elected office.”

Councilman Kyle Richards pointed out the potential conflict of interest in the way the funding is approved for nonprofits.

“It’s the City Council members that are making funding decisions,” Richards said. “We don’t want to completely limit our organization’s political involvement and activity in the community — there are ballot measures, other elected offices, and they are not making decisions on funding.”

Kristen Miller, the Goleta Chamber of Commerce’s CEO, opposed restrictive language in the guidelines. She advocated for free political expression, public advocacy and use of the chamber’s private resources for political purposes. 

“At a time when we need public engagement from all sectors of the community, banning nonprofits and their boards from endorsing their candidates is overly restrictive and unnecessary,” Miller told the council during public comment.

The chamber endorsed Tony Vallejo, who formerly chaired the Goleta Valley Chamber, for Goleta City Council in 2016.

Miller criticized the steps taken to switch the guidelines, and said there was “a lack of opening and willingness to debate these issues…and there was no workshop to hear from us about our suggestions, concerns, and to request our feedback.”

Mayor Paula Perotte disagreed. 

“We have been open at our meetings and welcoming,” Perotte said of the Grant Funding Review Committee, which met on April 30, May 2 and May 31 for further review and guidance with city staff.

The City Council approved $500,000 from the city’s general fund for fiscal year 2018-19 in support to other agencies budget line-item appropriations. The total amount of requests is more than $600,000, according to Nichols.

Councilman Michael Bennett raised concern of putting a cap on the funding, and wants to ensure the council would be able to provide money in emergencies. 

“You are going to have a hard time when someone walks in the door, and there is a crying need for something, and you say ‘nope there’s no money in the hard cap, you have to do it at this time, and got to have an RFP,’”Bennett said during deliberation. “That’s not how we operated in the past. We have been successful and addressed the needs of our community with the least amount of bureaucracy necessary.”

Changing the funding rules has been the subject of debate in recent weeks. Council members wrangled over revising the City Grant Program guidelines during a meeting held June 5 after approving the program funding for fiscal year 2018-19.

At its June 5 meeting, council members spoke of past political stands that some nonprofits may have supported with city funds, and the council approved restrictive language for the  city g                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     rants program funding. 

The council has generally provided up to $5,000 to nonprofit agencies through the City Grant program.

Around January or February of each year, staff will evaluate each agreement and ensure that accountability and reporting requirements are met and determine if any agreements will expire at the end of the fiscal year, according to the approved guidelines to other agencies budget line-item appropriations for nonprofits and services.

“We wanted to make sure there’s accountability built in that we were getting something for the money that we spent,” Mayor Pro Tem Stuart Kasdin said of the staff recommendations approved on Tuesday. “In the process, at least having a system that was as rigorous as the City Grant— they ask explicitly about money, activities, outcomes, and types of uses the money would be used for.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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