May 10, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 19

Borough grants may stay at 2011 levels

By Tom Morphet

Facing a room full of advocates for local non-profit organizations, the Haines Borough Assembly Tuesday backed away from a manager’s recommendation to reduce by 50 percent the municipality’s contributions to community organizations.

It appears instead the borough’s total contributions may hold steady to last year’s amount, roughly $155,000. Sixteen groups requested $180,118 this year.

An annual exercise in setting the budget, the process of determining which group gets how much money clearly grated on some assembly members, who described it Tuesday as “painful,” “embarrassing,” and “begging at the trough.”

Beckie Chapin, who has represented Lynn Canal Counseling at the annual request meeting for several years, also voiced discomfort with the process. “I have felt it’s like coming to the trough. There are many deserving non-profits in town. It’s hard to feel like we need to compete with one another.”

The local counseling service was asking for $30,000 in a municipal contribution to its $662,000 budget. The group’s contribution annually comes from the borough’s medical service area funds.

Assemblywoman Debra Schnabel said the borough should remove from the list the counseling service and others whose funding comes from specific revenue sources. It should identify its commitment to the preschool, senior center and community fireworks and contract with the Chilkat Valley Community Foundation to determine grants to other groups, she said.

“To approach all non-profits without regard to prioritization and contribution to the community is not fair,” Schnabel said. “We need to have that discussion.”

Mayor Stephanie Scott, however, said she felt uncomfortable separating the assembly from such decisions. “It’s the assembly’s job to decide where money is spent. That’s a job we can’t outsource.”

Member Daymond Hoffman said the assembly has tried to develop a model for making such funding decisions. “We tried to do that last year and it didn’t work. We just didn’t use it. We (developed) it but it just didn’t work.”

The assembly needs a plan that will work, but “we tend to wing it every year,” said member Steve Vick.

It wasn’t clear at press time how assemblyman Jerry Lapp’s suggestion for holding funding steady would affect requests that are new this year, including $4,400 sought by the Senior Center for help with utility costs. “We’re ordering fuel by the teaspoon because we don’t have the money to make it through the year,” testified Deborah Vogt.