Summit County commissioners look to prioritize funding for ‘essential’ county nonprofits |

Summit County commissioners look to prioritize funding for ‘essential’ county nonprofits

Commissioners said there is a need to streamline its grant request and approval process but ruled out a proposal to create a funding request cycle

Bagged food supplies are ready to be handed out at the Family & Intercultural Resource Center drive-through food bank in Breckenridge on June 8, 2020. County commissioners on Feb. 7, 2023, discussed the need to prioritize nonprofit funding for what they said were vital organizations.
Jason Connolly/Summit Daily News archive

More targeted funding for certain Summit County nonprofits could be on the horizon after the Summit Board of County Commissioners, during a Feb. 7 meeting, discussed the need to better prioritize and streamline their request and approval process. 

But commissioners stopped short of overhauling that process by creating an official application cycle for nonprofits, something county staff had proposed as a way to “ensure funding requests are equitable across organizations,” according to a staff memo

As Assistant County Manager Andy Atencio described it, the county’s nonprofit funds have been “a catch-all kind of junk drawer of money” that includes funding requests for annual dues and membership as well as operating costs and donations for a slew of organizations. 

“What we’d like to create is a true grant request process,” that would be modeled after similar programs in the county’s towns, Atencio said. 

Another proposal Antecio floated was to earmark a portion of the roughly $720,000 the county spends yearly on nonprofit support to be used by each commissioner for organizations they have a direct affinity for — though it would still have to win approval from all three commissioners. 

The $720,000 in funding is in addition to the various cash grants awarded to nonprofits by various towns. 

Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she didn’t support the idea of a grant cycle, something she said is “outside our role as a local government.” 

Lawrence also said she felt uneasy about earmarking grant funds for commissioners to use as “pet projects.”

“Then we’re getting lobbied and in turn, we’re lobbying our fellow commissioners,” Lawrence said. “I don’t really like that.”

Commissioner Tamara Pogue said there may be a need to separate out some fund requests from the overall balance the county has to allocate. 

“The dollars that we have allocated in this fund historically have been because there are organizations that are performing functions for our community that the county would otherwise be expected to do if we didn’t have those nonprofits,” Pogue said. “I don’t think the county has enough funds to expand the universe beyond those core essential services.”

Pogue agreed with Lawrence and said officials should not become a “philanthropic organization,” but also called for a “set criteria of services that we consider funding and that goes out to the nonprofit providers that we know deliver those services, and then they have an opportunity to submit an application back to us for consideration.”

Commissioner Josh Blanchard called these types of organizations “statutorily” needed in the county because of the services provided, such as the case of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center.

During the meeting, commissioners also discussed the approval of several 2023 funding requests from nonprofits, several of which had asked for an increase in money from last year. 

Those requests included: $125,000 from the Family & Intercultural Resource Center; $50,000 from Summit Advocates for Victims of Assault, a roughly $20,000 increase from last year, and $85,000 from the Summit Community Care Clinic, a $10,000 increase from last year. 

Commissioners approved the $125,000 request from the resource center — an organization likely to be inundated with clients for its food bank due to the impending reduction in SNAP benefits at the end of this month

Pogue said she was “uncomfortable with the size of the increase” from other organizations and said the county supports certain nonprofits in other ways beyond direct funding — such as through mill levies, which are property tax rates. 

Pogue supported approving $30,000 in funding for the advocates nonprofit — the same amount it received in 2022 — though both she and Lawrence agreed to support the $10,000 additional request from the care clinic, citing an increase in demand.

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