Ketchikan’s Borough Assembly is considering changes to its community grants program. A proposal up for debate Tuesday would narrow the focus of the program and eliminate education and recreation as goals for borough grant-making.
Assembly members called for revisions to the program after a heated debate over a grant awarded to the Ketchikan Pride Alliance last year. Borough Mayor Rodney Dial vetoed a roughly $1,600 grant for the LGBTQ group — the lowest amount awarded to any successful applicant last year. The assembly later overrode the veto, restoring the funding.
Under the existing guidelines, the borough takes applications under five categories: education, animal protection, economic development, recreation and transportation. The proposal up for debate Tuesday would take education and recreation off that list.
Borough officials are asking the assembly to agree on a formula that would determine the total amount available each year. Assistant Borough Manager Cynna Gubatayao says that if the assembly chooses to pare back its charitable giving, eliminating those two categories would be a step towards that goal.
“If the assembly chooses a funding level that reduces the total amount available substantially, then what we were thinking is trying to just shrink the size of the program, and pulling those two out is one way to do it,” she said in a phone interview Friday.
Removing the two categories from the application pool could impact local nonprofits.
More than half of the 23 groups that received borough funding last year listed education as one purpose of the grant, according to borough records. Nine listed recreation. Many of those groups said in their application that grants would also advance the borough’s economic development or other goals.
But seven — including the Pride Alliance, the domestic violence advocacy group Women in Safe Homes, Ketchikan Youth Court and the Salvation Army — listed only recreation, education, or both on their grant application. Grants to those groups totaled approximately $74,000 last year, about 20% of the roughly $390,000 awarded last July.
But even if the assembly eliminates education and recreation as goals for its grant program, Gubatayao says those organizations might still be eligible.
“It would be up to the applicant to make the argument to look at how their program supports economic development” or another listed goal, she said.
Gubatayao emphasized that the proposal is merely a starting point for the assembly, which is scheduled to tackle the issue in a work session during Tuesday’s meeting.
In other business, the assembly is scheduled to take a final vote on a measure that would boost the borough’s spending limit by $1.9 million. Ketchikan’s borough attorney said earlier this month that the measure was necessary to ensure that ballooning health care payments on behalf of the local school district didn’t put the borough in violation of borough and state law. Borough Mayor Rodney Dial has pledged to veto the measure if he doesn’t receive a line-item budget from the school district for the fiscal year ending in June. The assembly supported the item unanimously at its most recent meeting.
Ketchikan’s Borough Assembly meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, a day later than usual due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. The meeting in assembly chambers at the White Cliff Building is livestreamed on local cable channels and the borough’s website. Members of the public can speak to the assembly during public hearings and at the beginning of the meeting.