Council approves outside agencies priority list


BROOKINGS – The Brookings City Council approved a priority list for outside agency funding at Tuesday’s meeting. Councilor Patty Bacon was absent.

The city’s 2022 recommended budget contains $240,000 for social service agencies. This is an increase from the 2021 budget. Last year council prioritized: affordable housing, youth development, diversity, government stewardship, health, safety, and transportation/transit.

The list is in no particular order, and the council voted Tuesday to stick with those priorities.

Background

City Manager Paul Briseno explained this was the second year of a new process of the city engaging the United Way to help determine funding for outside agencies.

He discussed the schedule: The council is setting priorities for the rubric; in December and January, the United Way will receive and evaluate funding applications; in January, the United Way will submit the community impact report; and in January and February, the United Way will make recommendations and the council will determine the allocations.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council was tasked with determining whether members wanted any changes to the proposed priorities, he said.

The United Way utilizes a rubric that prioritizes health, education and self-sufficiency, Briseno noted.

“Last year, city council did list affordable housing, youth development, diversity, government stewardship, health, safety, and transportation as their highest priorities,” Briseno said.

“This year, within the budget, we have identified roughly $240,000, which is an increase from last year,” Briseno said.

“We were able to increase slightly about $40,000 because we had two agencies that chose not to use the money. They were able to receive monies from federal government,” Briseno said.

He intends to bring back more recommendations from staff later in the year through American Rescue Plan funds that the city received.

“We received the first payment of $2.2 million here just a few weeks ago, and we’ll receive the other half of the payment here in about a year, year and a half,” Briseno said.

Heidi Gullickson, director of the United Way, said the process went “very smoothly” on their end.

Councilor comments

Councilor Leah Brink asked what the word diversity actually means in relation to the outside agencies and how they are prioritized.

Some requests include programs that teach diversity and inclusion, Gullickson said, adding they were open to the council adjusting things.

The organizations indicate their programs fit into one of the categories, Gullickson added.

“I guess, for me, … I would consider maybe transportation and transit a little bit higher priority potentially, and I’m not sure if I consider diversity to be of the highest priority in terms of funding for this particular aspect of our budget,” Brink said.

Councilor Holly Tilton Byrne asked if the priorities were listed in order.

Briseno said he didn’t think the priorities were ranked by the council last year, “but if you want to rank them, that’s entirely up to city council.”

“I would actually hesitate to rank them, in part because we have a little bit of an idea of the submissions we tend to get, and I don’t know that changing the ranking is going to change a lot in terms of what applications we get,” Tilton Byrne said.

She asked staff how the city identifies priority areas in the process with United Way as opposed to how organizations are funded other ways.

Briseno said the outside agencies fell into two different funds: the economic development agencies funds and the ones that provide a social service, “then that goes through this funding mechanism.”

Tilton Byrne clarified economic development and the school, and then “this pool of everything else.”

“Correct. That ‘anything else’ really seemed to fit non-for-profits and social service agencies,” Briseno said, adding it’s based on the funding, such as 3B and pillow tax can only fund economic development agencies or marketing, things of that nature.

“These agencies are really funded solely out of the general fund,” Briseno said, which gives more leeway.

Councilor Nick Wendell asked Gullickson to define government stewardship.

She said she checks the application, to see how the applicant felt their program qualified, and what kind of impact the program makes.

Briseno said the list comes from the council’s policies and past applications, so “it was made by prior councils,” and if the current council feels some terms aren’t relevant or community needs have changed, the council members can make changes.

“Mental health, you know, this last year, a huge increase in that need. Maybe that takes a higher priority over government stewardship,” Briseno said.

Wendell pointed out the council has looked at the term “health” and tucked mental health under that term.

“I hope that we can continue to do that; I think it’s a priority,” Wendell said.

Future meetings

Tilton Byrne wanted to discuss at a future meeting the process of accepting the applications, funding the non-profits, and getting feedback from the organizations.   

“I think it would be good for us to have a really strong idea of how that whole cycle happens,” Tilton Byrne said.

She said she wanted a clearer understanding of how the applications were awarded, and how the council gets feedback on how the funds were used.

Gullickson said they were using the same process as is used for the United Way applications, so it’s streamlined, but she can talk more about it at a future meeting.

Tilton Byrne said her questions might also be directed to the city’s part in the process and wants “a fuller picture of what the city dollars are being used for in all of these different areas.”

Councilor Wayne Avery said he’d heard so much about the system and the rubric, “and when I looked at this, I was struck by how short the list was and how three or four agencies get the lion’s share of the money.”

He asked if those were the only agencies that applied that fit the criteria or if it was up to the agency to decide which pool of money they get.

Briseno said there was “a whole lot of background in that process” and recommended the topic be brought back in a November work session.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]

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