Inyo County Supes discuss dwindling funds
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors considered whether or not to continue the allocation process for the remaining 2013-14 Advertising County Resources budgeted for the Community Project Sponsorship Program (CPSP) Grant at Tuesday’s Board meeting in Independence. The CPSP Grant became the subject of controversy at the Sept. 9 Inyo County Budget hearings when Board Chair Linda Arcularius suggested the Board consider allocating some CPSP funds to the Bishop Chamber of Commerce. This raised the question of whether the needs of Bishop should supersede the needs of other County chambers in Lone Pine and Death Valley, as well as other projects and events that rely on the $100,000 CPSP Grant. “That $100,000 can get diminished quickly,” Supervisor Matt Kingsley warned at the Sept. 9 hearing; “I think we have to be careful.”
The CPSP Grant offers an annual fund for the support of Inyo County community projects and events that enhance visitation to the County, or otherwise enrich cultural and recreational opportunities in the County. $20,000 of this year’s $100,000 was awarded to six projects in the fall cycle in September. These projects included the Lone Pine Film Festival, Millpond Music Festival, and Eastern Sierra Fall Classic Trout Derby. Typically, the remaining $80,000 would be allocated by Dec. 1 of this year.
“First of all, I think there’s total agreement that there’s not enough money available to do everything we want to do,” said Chair Arcularius. “The grant process itself takes a lot of time out of groups that are volunteer run, the County, and the grant award committee.” Considering that the CPSP Grant allocation sum continues to decline each year, Chair Arcularius questioned whether these groups and the County’s staff time might be better spent with a different system for funding allocation. She noted that only $35,000 of the total requests for funding was non-chamber related. “Is it more prudent and efficient to allocate funding to the three chambers and the fishing derbies?” she wondered.
Supervisor Kingsley agreed that as the money available for the CPSP Grant has shrunk, staff time spent on the Grant award may not be justified. However, if the County were to follow Chair Arcularius’ suggestion, “How can we still support community events in some of the smaller communities that don’t have chambers?” he asked.
Even the existing chambers may not feel they have enough access to funding, according to Bishop Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tawni Thomson. “I do like the CPSP; I do think it enhances projects and programs,” Thomson said. “It asks for creativity; for people to come up with new ideas and ways to promote our communities. [But] I don’t like that Visitors Center operations are not eligible for CPSP funds.” Thomson noted that Visitors Center travel and trade shows are also not eligible for CPSP funds. “It would be better if we had a source of funds that could help us with the Visitors Center and some non-CPSP projects, allocated earlier in the year,” she said.
Kathleen Getty, Director of the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Chair Arcularius’ suggested that some automatic funding would be beneficial to the chambers. “All of the projects hosted by the chambers have proven themselves to be good projects,” she said, arguing that chambers shouldn’t have to continually prove, via the application process, the worthiness of such projects. “If you don’t live up to your obligation, it could be that you become ineligible for two years,” she suggested.
Given the feedback from Board and Chamber members, Chair Arcularius suggested tabling the discussion until next year. “If [the CPSP] is going to be changed, we should take at least a year to do that so these groups would have time to adjust,” she said.
County CAO Kevin Carunchio pointed out that the $100,000 currently available for the CPSP Grant may see further reductions, considering the County’s projected need for an additional $2 million in General Fund expenditures, with no projected increase in revenues to cover that loss, in Fiscal Year 2014-15. “Next year I think we’ll be hard pressed to have anything resembling this program,” he said “With the reality we’re looking at, I think we’ll be looking at pulling money back from all non-discretionary sources.”
Chair Arcularius suggested addressing the subject in the spring, after the release of the third quarter budget for review. “By then, we should know what we’re working with,” she said. “One way or another, we’re going to have to decide what to do with this program.”