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December 8, 2022

City Council Split Over $50K Worth Of Grants For Local Nonprofits

After having supported setting aside funding for local nonprofits, during the Scotts Valley budget process earlier this year, Councilmember Randy Johnson joined Vice Mayor Jim Reed in opposing the move during a test run for regular in-person City Council meetings, Oct. 19.

In a 3-2 decision, during a meeting where brand new audio-visual equipment settings were being tweaked, elected officials agreed to divvy up $50,000 among seven organizations.

While Reed said he thought Scotts Valley shouldn’t fund services he believes are the responsibility of other levels of government, Johnson said he would’ve been willing to pick a couple of organizations to fund at a reduced rate.

One staff recommendation was to give the seven chosen organizations the full amount they asked for.

But Councilmember Jack Dilles made the successful motion to go with the other staff recommendation—to provide less than the initial ask to three requestors, to keep the overall spend within the budgeted $50,000.

The amounts are as follows:

  • Boys and Girls Club Santa Cruz County – $15,000
  • Community Bridges – Meals on Wheels – $5,000 (reduced from $6,500)
  • Family Service Agency of the Central Coast – $5,000
  • Grey Bears – $6,000
  • O’Neill Sea Odyssey – $10,500 (reduced from $10,604)
  • Scotts Valley Educational Foundation – $5,000 (reduced from $10,000)
  • United Way of Santa Cruz County – $3,500

Alma Molina, assistant director of Meals on Wheels for Santa Cruz County, said that 81% of Scotts Valley older adults were at a “high nutritional risk,” adding that “85% of scotts valley seniors receiving Meals on Wheels are living at or under the poverty level.”

But Councilmember Johnson raised concerns that Scotts Valley’s finances aren’t rebounding from the pandemic as quickly as some might have hoped. Johnson said he also wanted to make sure that Council was spending citizens’ money wisely, given the sales tax measure that was passed in 2020.

Councilmember Dilles said the community might be headed for a recession, but said Scotts Valley isn’t in a bad spot just yet. Plus, he said, there are plenty of locals who’ve been struggling in the last few years.

“I think we have enough money to pay for this,” he said. “It’s not much money. And I think it sends a strong message that we care about all folks in our community, especially our most vulnerable, and our youth.”

Likewise, Councilmember Derek Timm said he thinks it will be money well-spent.

“Because it’s going to those that are in need, those that need the critical care services, that need mental health services, that need meals, that need childcare,” he said. “I mean, if we tried to provide these services as a City, it would cost us 10 times this much.”

Although he said selected organizations like the O’Neill Sea Odyssey are “worthy of support,” Reed said he firmly believes that support should not come from City coffers.

“Just as our friends at the County are not writing us a check to our police department, to pay our officers and to keep our officer pay competitive, I don’t think it makes sense for us to duplicate functions the County is already engaged in,” he said.

Reed said his math shows that $50,000 would be a 2% raise for police officers.

“I don’t think there’s anything more important that we do than provide police protection,” he said. “And those of you that have been in public negotiations with unions before, you understand that things can go sideways, and relations can break down and accusations can be made over things far tinier than 2%.”

He also suggested it could lead to a tax increase.

“I think that this is a mistake that could come back to bite us when we need to ask our voters for something other than a TOT increase,” he said. “This is the last thing I think we should be considering.”

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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