The Town of Paradise Valley is providing fewer dollars to community organizations this year --- with a focus on donating money to COVID-19 relief --- as they look to limit spending.
On May 28, the Town Council voted 6-1 to approve giving a total of $45,000 to various Valley organizations. Councilmember Paul Dembow was the dissenting vote, citing displeasure at spending taxpayer money on organizations that may not assist them directly.
Twelve organizations asked for the municipal funds, but only eight will receive money. The Paradise Valley Veterans Appreciation Vintage Car Show is one of the agencies rejected of a grant. Since 1986 the municipality has awarded funding to various community service organizations that benefit the town, its residents and the broader community.
In 2009, a Human Services Funding Committee was created and adopted funding guidelines.
In April, Valley organizations were invited to submit grant applications --- of the 12 organizations who applied, $117,000 was sought.
The Town Council originally budgeted $65,000 for the community grants, but the advisory group recommended, due to COVID-19, to decrease the funding amount.
The advisory group is made up of Councilmembers Scott Moore and Anna Thomasson, and Town Manager Jill Keimach. The group met on May 13 to review and score the applications.
This year, priority was given to programs that focused on COVID-19 relief, Mr. Moore explained.
The agencies, requests and approved funding amount are:
Ms. Thomasson disclosed during the meeting that she is an active volunteer at the Franciscan Renewal Center, but she does not have a conflict of interest.
Ms. Keimach says in light of the significant budget restraints Paradise Valley is undergoing, the advisory group sought to come in lower than the allotted amount.
“We frankly started looking at it, and first started out where we would fund it --- and we ended up at $45,000,” she said. “We didn’t do the opposite. We didn’t’ say, ‘Oh, I wish we could give more.’ We looked at each application and felt like that was a good amount depending on what our values are and our criteria.”
Mr. Moore says the advisory group spent a lot of time on each grant applicant.
“We focused this go-around on the COVID-19 that has hit us all and tried to go, as we went through each one of these requests, we looked at them all and the ones we felt were really pertinent to where we’re at today is places that focused on --- anything that had to do with the homeless, shelters, helping with children in need, foster care, counseling --- that’s really where the focus was,” Mr. Moore said. “There’s a lot of great agencies here.”
Councilwoman Ellen Andeen pointed out the Central AZ Shelter Services is receiving nearly half of all the grant funds.
Town Clerk Duncan Miller, who spearheads the grant effort, says this year CASS will serve 4,300 individuals who will receive shelter services; 500 family members will receive safe shelter at the organization’s family emergency center; and 500 vulnerable adults will be served with beds, transportation and basic housing needs.
Ms. Thomasson also said the town has contributed about $20,000-$25,000 nearly every year for the past two decades.
Mr. Dembow, the dissenting vote, says while all the organizations appeared to be very nice places to give funds he has a significant issue giving money to services that may or may not help Paradise Valley residents.
“The Franciscan Renewal Center is a perfect example; it is a wonderful organization but we have a couple of councilmembers who are members there and there are many other houses of worship located within our town who would have been happy to apply,” Mr. Dembow said, pointing to a court ruling that stipulated who could apply for the grants.
“I just think it shows or at least has the appearance of impropriety. I’m not suggesting that the councilmembers offered up anything that was inappropriate, whatsoever, and I even understand Councilmember Thomasson suggested other things are more important. But I just think it looks terrible from an optics standpoint spending the public funds in this way, and I would hope the residents get to choose how they want to spend their money.”