Committee Anguishes Over Funding Requests

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A three-member nonprofit ad hoc committee of the Payson Town Council met Tuesday afternoon to make final budget recommendations for local nonprofit organizations.

During a special meeting of the council last week, representatives from nine organizations got their chance at the podium to make their case for town funds.

Councilors Judy Buettner, Robert Henley and Dick Reese spent the better part of three hours negotiating how much money each of the nine organizations should get.

The committee also used earlier recommendations made by councilors Barbara Brewer and Bryan Siverson. Mayor Ken Murphy told Deputy Town Manager Glen Smith that he did not wish to participate in the process.

The committee's funding decisions will be considered in the budget process. A final budget then goes before the council for ratification. Only then, will the non-profits know the exact amount of funding the town will provide for the year.

Henley suggested grouping the organizations according to the nature of services and synergy between them.

"Organizations like the Time Out Shelter, Gila County Community Action Program (CAP), Habitat for Humanity and the Rim Country Literacy Program (RCLP) are all for people in crisis," Henley said. "I would like to see them fully funded."

Buettner and Reese agreed that the "humanitarian" organizations be given priority.

Time Out got its request of $10,000 from the town. CAP got $12,000 as opposed to its request of $15,000 for the coming fiscal year.

The literacy program, which tried for $10,000 for books and materials, got $7,500, and Habitat for Humanity will have development fees for one house totaling $5,500 paid for by the town.

The second grouping of non-profits appeared to be a greater challenge for the committee.

The humane society's original funding request for its animal impound program was $60,000. The cost to feed, shelter and care for the town's stray animals has escalated. Since the town hired an animal control officer, more animals are being brought into the shelter.

The committee chose to give the society $45,000 for the animal impound program.

The society also requested $30,000 toward its new building. Since the town withdrew its offer to buy the current building on McLane, work on the new shelter on Longhorn has been delayed. The $30,000 is to allow the organization to move forward while the building is for sale.

"My understanding is that the $30,000 will be repaid to the town when the building sells," Buettner said. "I feel that since the town pulled out of the deal to buy their building that we have some responsibility to do this."

"Will we be the first to be repaid?" Henley asked.

"We can put that in the contract," Town Manager Fred Carpenter said.

With that stipulation, all three agreed to the full $30,000.

The Senior Center appeared to be a heavy decision for all three councilors as the center's survival is in jeopardy unless the town gives them substantial funding.

Councilors again asked representatives from the center about possibly partnering with other agencies in town.

"As long as we accept county funding, it would be very difficult to partner with other organizations," Director Marsha Cauley said.

Averaging the council's recommendations which ranged from the full request of $50,000 to $0, the committee chose to give the center $30,000.

With very little resistance, the committee gave the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation its full request of $45,000 for the next budget year.

"They really do a lot of work behind the scenes in trying to bring businesses to town," Buettner said.

Determining what to give the Northern Gila County Historical Society wasn't quite as easy for the committee. This was the first time the historical society had requested funds from the town.

Reese, a vocal proponent of marketing plans, had some reservations about the historical society's reserved approach to marketing

"The town of Tombstone almost went out of business because they tried to market themselves as a Disneyland rather than focusing on education and history," society director Sharesse Von Strauss said.

"The historical society has done so much of their own funding before coming to the town," Buettner said in support of the funding request.

The committee chose to give the historical society $10,000, taking councilor's varied recommendations into consideration.

With four of the six councilors recommending that no money be given to the new Payson Regional Housing Development, things didn't look good for the budding organization that was instrumental in bringing low-income housing to Payson.

"The request for $25,000 will be for staff," director Richard Croy said, "staff who will be able to write grants to get more funding."

The organization also has appealed to the county for assistance and Croy stated that accomplishments by his group have infused millions of dollars into the town's economy.

With a better understanding of the organization and its needs, the committee decided to allot it $5,000.

The town's recycling program was a casualty of the budgeting process. Although Buettner and Henley expressed some apprehension about eliminating the program, Reese insisted that recycling could be accomplished through avenues other than town money.

The committee decided to investigate alternative options for recycling and may revisit the issue at a later date.

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