Town discusses how to fund service organizations

As part of its three-hour budget work session on Oct. 30, the Pagosa Springs Town Council again discussed how to fund local service organizations and economic development, among other topics.
For several years, the council has opted to devote 3 percent of its projected sales tax revenue to fund requests from nonprofit service organizations — with $85,500 set aside for 2020.
In 2019, the council decided to do two funding cycles, with each request capped at $10,000, and is carrying both aspects forward to 2020.
For years, council has discussed how to determine what nonprofits are funded in an objective manner, and that discussion continued at last week’s work session.
At the work session, Town Manager Andrea Phillips explained that she and Town Clerk April Hessman came up with an evaluation point system that ranked the requests based on several things: if the request aligns with council’s stated goals and objectives, demonstration of financial need, if the request is serving town residents directly or is located in town, if the funding is for a project or ongoing operational expenses, and prior funding or benefits received from the town (such as land, a lease or fees waived).
Phillips then explained she and Hessman had individually evaluated and gave points to each of the requests the town has received and plugged some funding for each into the budget.
She then asked the council members how they felt about the philosophy of giving something to each nonprofit even though it might dilute the efforts.
Council member Madeline Bergon suggested she would be OK with not giving money to everyone who applies, then informed her fellow council members that she had also come up with a way to rank requests. Bergon’s idea includes separating them into categories, such as those that serve an underserved population, those that are lifestyle-related, which are actively providing services and more.
She also suggested using tax revenues generated by marijuana businesses for education funding.
Council member Mat deGraaf told Bergon he liked the way she separated the requests into categories, and Bergon noted that she liked the rating systems, as well as the idea of different categories of funding.
Other members of the council also liked the rating system, noting that the systematic approach to awarding funding is less subjective and more defensible.
Members of the council also discussed lessening the amount of funding that is set aside for service organizations, but opted to not change the amount for 2020.
The council members ultimately decided to look into using the rating system with the addition of a category defining if the service organization provides a vital community service.
Phillips then suggested each council member score the requests according to the evaluation including the vital service component and send those scores to staff for the scores to be consolidated and averaged.
On Tuesday, Phillips reported to The SUN that, in an effort to be more transparent, instead of each council member submitting his or her scores to town staff prior to the next work session, the council has been instructed to review the applications and bring his or her scores to the next work session, where the scores will be read aloud and averaged.
As conversation continued on Oct. 24, several town council members expressed the desire to keep separate line items in the budget for council’s three ongoing strategic priorities: workforce and affordable housing, early child care and education, and broadband.
Council suggested setting aside $125,000 in economic development funding for projects or funding requests that fall within the three strategic priority categories.
Of that $125,000, $25,000 is set to go to the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation.
The town also has a housing choices fund that is fed by a portion of the fees from vacation rental licensing, with that fund budgeted at $8,000 in 2020.
The council also discussed pulling any service organization requests that relate to the three priorities out of the service organization funding and instead funding those through the appropriate strategic priority funding.
During the same work session, the council discussed how conservative or aggressive sales tax revenue projections should be (currently it is budgeted at 2.75 percent above the 2019 year-end revenue assumption), putting out a request for proposals for new attorney services, how to reward employees and apply compensation increases, and more.
Future budget work
sessions and meetings
The council will have another budget work session on Nov. 14 beginning at 5 p.m. at Town Hall.
That work session is anticipated to touch on service organization funder, the town’s Geothermal Fund, Conservation Trust Fund, Capital Fund, 10-year capital plan, the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District and the Trust/Impact Fee Fund.
Following the next budget work session, council is slated to hold a public hearing on the budget at 5 p.m. on Nov. 21 in the Town Hall council chambers.
Council is anticipated to hold another public hearing and adopt the 2020 budget on Dec. 3.

This story was posted on November 13, 2019.