Policy changes on the horizon for community grants

On Jan. 9, 2018 commissioners voted on a policy for Providing Aid to Outside Organizations which will replace the current Community Outreach Grant policy starting for fiscal year 2019. The policy will apply to all organizations receiving county funds. Staff recommended the change in policy to improve accountability and transparency. Currently, organizations (not included in the Community Outreach Grant Program) are not required to submit documentation regarding expenditures for the requested funds. Organizations with large funding agreements with the county submit invoices on a regular basis. AmSkills, a manufacturing apprenticeship program, has a $200,000 funding agreement with the county and they submit quarterly invoices. Organizations that receive smaller grants are required to submit receipts to justify the grant. The policy would require all organizations receiving grants to submit further documentation of their use of the funds. Grants would also be project based.

In relation to AmSkills, Chairman Champion remarked, “I want to see $200,000 worth of proof that they are spending these tax dollars properly.”

Commissioner Holcomb stated that he has never seen any documentation on how funds are used by AmSkills and they are evasive in answering questions.

Commissioner Allocco, stated, “Frankly I don’t know that some of these organizations have the economic impact that they say they do. I said that about the blueberry festival when they were here… all these vendors are coming from outside the county and they’re not paying any taxes in the county so where is the economic impact?”

Budget Manager Pamela Lee explained that prior to June 1 each year, organizations would have to submit their request, but nothing would be final until the county’s final budget is approved for the new fiscal year in September. When an approved project is completed, the organization would have to come before the board for a “public purpose approval.” The Board would consider submitted project receipts to give this approval.

Commissioners agreed that there would have to be two separate policies for grants under $5000 and those capped at $50,000. No more than $50,000 total will be available for the smaller grants of $5000 or less which would go to ten or more organizations depending on requests, which are submitted on a reimbursement basis. For the grants capped at $50,000, the organization must meet the criteria of community needs, essential services, tourism, economic development, etc., and submit a business plan for a “shovel ready” project and provide proof at the end.

On Feb. 13, 2018, staff will present the Board with a revised policy to vote on based on this input.

On Jan. 23, 2018, the Board granted public purpose approval for allocations budgeted for the current fiscal year. The approvals included the Brooksville Vision Foundation, in the second year of a three year agreement with the county for $51,000.

Commissioner Holcomb stated, “We might get some criticism today about supporting the city. This is an effort where we’ve been very supportive of the city. I also know that Tallahassee has been supportive of the city ...with similar amounts of money.. We want it to grow, because a successful Brooksville is a successful Hernando County. ”

The second organization to receive public purpose approval was the Hernando County Fair Association for $30,000. Nicholson has been supportive of the fair receiving this funding since they are all ready to get started with construction on a new porch, and are just waiting on the funds to do so.

The third and final organization to receive public purpose approval along with authorization of their first quarter payment was AmSkills. Chairman Champion was the lone vote against authorizing the payment.