Carbondale’s $5.2 million budget approved, 5-2 |

Carbondale’s $5.2 million budget approved, 5-2

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

CARBONDALE, Colorado – The town trustees on Tuesday approved a $5.2 million 2012 municipal budget, after debating the appropriate use of public money for private organizations.

The vote on the budget was 5-2, with Trustees Frosty Merriott and Pamela Zentmyer dissenting. Both were unhappy about the handling of the community grants process.

The town received $104,000 in grant requests from community nonprofit organizations, but had only $55,000 budgeted for such grants. Trustees tentatively divided up the $55,000, but will take the matter up again in January. No checks will be sent to the recipient organizations at this point.

After failing to agree on grant allocations Dec. 6, each trustee worked up their preferred allocation amounts. Town staff tallied the amounts and then divided each by seven, resulting in just $42,529 to be allocated.

Only Trustees Frosty Merriott and John Hoffmann recommended spending the entire $55,000 amount. The lowest totals came from Trustee John Foulkrod, whose list of recommendations totaled $26,500, and Elizabeth Murphy, whose list came to $30,000.

Merriott urged his fellow trustees to approve the budget with the grants allocated based on the tallying exercise, and “without spending an inordinate amount of time on it” in further discussions.

Meanwhile, two Carbondale residents questioned the town’s grant process.

David Kane, who said he works in the oil and gas industry, said he opposed giving public money to organizations that, in his view, are “politically motivated.” He named the Wilderness Workshop and the Thompson Divide Coalition, both of which have opposed industry efforts to drill for natural gas in the Thompson Divide area southwest of Carbondale.

Herb Feinzig said he opposed giving taxpayer money to private nonprofits in general. He said nonprofits should rely on fundraising campaigns seeking donations from individuals, not governments, particularly in tough economic times.

“This is an area where we might save some money,” Feinzig told the trustees.

Zentmyer said the comments underscored a need for the trustees to take a closer look at the general issue of whether nonprofit grants are appropriate, and at how they are doled out, at some future meeting.

“If nonprofits are balancing their budgets based on the town, that’s not what these grants are for,” she said.

Mayor Stacey Bernot noted that the original intent of the grants process was to support organizations that offered services or activities that the town itself could not.

Bernot supported the idea of reviving the discussion about the grants process at a meeting on Jan. 10, but Zentmyer expressed frustration at the prospect.

“So we’re going to redo hours of work?” she asked, referring to the time the trustees already had spent on the issue and noting that the grants are less than 1 percent of the overall town budget.

The discussion will be taken up again on Jan. 10, 2012.

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