Back in July, Payson Mayor Tom Morrissey floated a resolution that would add a line item in the budget for the nonprofit Payson Homeless & Homeless Veterans Initiative.
The justification for that ask stated PHHVI provides, “public services that are either not provided for by the Town directly or that may be enhanced through an agreement of three parties.”
Already three local nonprofits receive financial support from the town for the services they provide: the chamber of commerce (Visitors Center), the Payson Senior Center (Beeline Bus and Meals on Wheels) and the Humane Society of Central Arizona (animal services).
When Morrissey asked the council to approve the resolution in July, the council pushed back with fears of opening the funding floodgates to all nonprofits in town. They instead asked for more time to consider his request and get a presentation from PHHVI.
The newly seated council not only heard a presentation from PHHVI at its work study on Jan. 5, but it also learned “there are some rules and laws and regulations around that process” to fund nonprofits, said Town Manager Troy Smith.
“Knowing that there are a lot of great organizations in town who are in need, I think it is important the council understands how you are thinking about funding” he told the council.
Smith told the council town code lays out step by step the obstacles an organization must overcome in order to receive funding from the town.
First off, the organization must provide a service on behalf of the town that benefits the town. Then it must answer the question, if the organization did not work for the town, would it provide that service, anyway?
The organization must then prove it can provide reports that detail how the money from the town was spent.
Then the council makes a “finding of fact” and staff writes up a contract, said Smith.
“That is the process described in the code,” he said.
Councilor Suzy Tubbs-Avakian resumed a query she had regarding the currently funded nonprofits from the July 24 meeting.
“This is something we brought up last time,” she said. “We even asked (for reports) from the chamber and humane society. As of October, we have not received reports.”
Smith, on the job since October, asked if he could reach out to those organizations to follow up on that question.
Councilor Jim Ferris wondered if the town would save money if it paid the humane society “each individual event of taking that animal to the shelter.”
Councilor Barbara Underwood, on the board of the Payson Senior Center, assured the council the center files a monthly report to the town.
“Hopefully they are getting it,” she said.
Tubbs-Avakian and Ferris then asked why the town continued to pay for the Visitors Center when it has been open a limited time due to the pandemic.
Smith explained that even with limited operations, the arrangement saves the town money.
“In this situation, the cost of to us of having a facility and paid staff would far out cede the contract price,” he said.
Councilor Scott Nossek asked if the town could create its own grant system to provide money to local charities.
“If we were in Colorado, we could do that,” said Smith of his home state.
Smith explained a town he worked for created a foundation that not only disbursed town funds to nonprofits, but it also raised its own funds.
Ferris agreed with the Arizona Legislature’s restrictions on “taking the money out of your pocket,” to “give it to this benevolent cause I feel worthy.”
“I don’t feel it should be the town’s purview to spend money” on all nonprofits, he said.
Exactly the concern the council had back in July about an avalanche of funding requests if there weren’t some sort of policy to guide them on what to fund.
Smith suggested walking the local brush pits through the funding process because they provide a service that protects the town.
The council requested staff work on an outline to examine the town permanently funding the brush pits.