Council makes early funding commitment to Free Summer Concert Series
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs City Council thinks the Free Summer Concert Series that regularly packs the base of Howelsen Hill has become such an important community event it warrants a line item in the city’s budget.
But one council member fears the change could undermine the city’s system of having impartial volunteers decide how much city funding local non-profits receive each year.
The council voted, 6-1, on Tuesday to allocate $35,000 to next year’s summer concert series, which is organized and put on by a non-profit organization.
Council members think the financial commitment will remove some of the drama of recent years, when the hyper-popular concert series has not received as much city money as it would have liked.
The concert series regularly enters a competitive grant application process the city uses to distribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to dozens of local non-profits.
Council members said that, even with their $35,000 financial commitment, the concert series will still be able to enter the competitive grant application process to secure additional funding for such things as additional shows or higher-cost acts.
“This tones down the drama on this,” Councilman Scott Ford said of the financial commitment.
The drama reached Citizens Hall last year, when the stewards of concert series organizers complained they had received half as much funding from the city’s competitive grant distribution process as they would have liked.
The concert series was one of 24 nonprofits to not receive the full amount of funding they were seeking.
The concert series funding cut did not sit well with some council members, and after a lengthy debate, the council voted, 4-3, to deny investing an additional $18,000 in the series.
The council ultimately feared if it gave more money to the concert series, other nonprofits that receive money from the city annually after the competitive grant vetting process would question their own funding totals and lobby the council directly for more dollars, as the concert series did.
“It’s a slippery slope,” Council President Bart Kounovsky said at the time. “And when you play in the world of the government and the public, sometimes, it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to.”
Kounovsky was the only council member on Tuesday to vote against the $35,000 for the concert series.
He said the city and council have spent years building a system that relies on impartial volunteers to decide how much each non-profit in the community should receive, not the council.
“We’ve worked so hard to put everything into these coalitions (that vet grant requests), and now, as we’re leaving, we’re breaking it out again,” Kounovsky said.
Council members who were supportive of ensuring the concert series received enough funding outside the city’s non-profit grant vetting process suggested the series has become part of the fabric of the community’s culture, similar to the annual Fourth of July firework show.
They said it should be funded as such.
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