City boosts nonprofit funds |

City boosts nonprofit funds

Community housing fund transfer makes increases possible

Brandon Gee

— The local nonprofit sector received a big and unexpected boost in funding Tuesday from the Steamboat Springs City Council.

At its all-day meeting to discuss the 2010 budget, council members reversed course on a community support budget initially slated to be slashed 10 percent. Instead, the council creatively restored funding for most organizations to 2009 levels or higher.

The city’s community support spending is a relatively small but emotional portion of the city budget that goes toward dozens of organizations dedicated to areas such as the arts, human services, the environment and promoting the local economy.

As part of citywide budget cuts in response to the recession and plummeting sales tax revenues, community support spending was cut from $1.8 million in 2008 to $1.3 million this year. Tuesday’s direction from the council – which still must be formally approved by an ordinance adopting a budget for next year – didn’t restore funding to 2008 levels but did stem the bleeding.

“This is so heartwarming,” said Nancy Kramer, director of the volunteer Arts and Culture Coalition.

Most organizations receiving community support money are divided into three categories: arts and culture, environmental and human resource. A volunteer coalition for each category helps divide up a lump sum allocation from the City Council to member organizations. The Arts and Culture Coalition, for example, includes organizations such as Strings in the Mountains, Steamboat Springs Free Summer Concert Series and Steamboat Springs Arts Council.

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Combined, the coalitions’ members received $527,000 in 2008 and $279,000 in 2009. They requested $449,000 for 2010, but City Manager Jon Roberts and interim Finance Director Bob Litzau recommended further cuts to about $250,000.

In a memo to the council, the organizations justified their request by arguing that they provide an economic benefit to the city by promoting tourism, preserving the community’s cultural and environmental character, and providing safety-net services that otherwise would fall on government.

“We do not believe this is a charitable donation,” said Environmental Coalition director Mark Andersen, who noted that nonprofit groups are facing the same budget difficulties as the city. “We want you to look at this as a partnership.”

Through a series of budget moves, the council directed an increase in their contribution to the coalitions to $330,000. The move was primarily made possible by an idea suggested by Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski to fund the city’s $80,000 contribution to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority with money from the city’s “community housing fund” rather than its general fund.

The community housing fund is home to the fees the city collects through its affordable housing ordinance. Council members unanimously agreed that it was appropriate to use a portion of those fees to help fund YVHA.

That – combined with smaller budget moves such as council members’ decision to cut their own pay 10 percent – freed up additional general fund dollars to devote to the community support budget.

YVHA is one of a few organizations that receive community support money but aren’t classified under a coalition. These organizations also were slated to be cut 10 percent, but most were restored to their 2009 funding levels.

One exception was the single largest recipient of community support money: the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s summer marketing budget. Summer marketing was funded at $746,910 in 2008 and $564,200 in 2009. The Chamber requested $525,000 for marketing in 2010, which the council granted.

By the numbers

City’s contribution to nonprofit organizations*

2003 $350,000

2004 $328,000

2005 $342,000

2006 $405,000

2007 $442,000

2008 $527,000

2009 $279,000

2010 $330,000**

* Does not include other portions of the city’s community support budget such as government activities, miscellaneous contributions and contributions to the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association

** Preliminary