The proposal would have transferred $25,000 in half-cent funds to LEDA every quarter to support their “agenda and provide for the administration of currently identified projects (and) other community-wide projects that may come up,” the recommendation states.
Those projects often require participants to have permanent staff in place to administer the “process,” LEDA treasurer Eric Andrews told the council this week.
“Right now we don’t have anybody to (do) that, ” Andrews said. “That’s where part of the budget would go – it would be to hire a staff that can run (those programs).”
He estimated that $40,000 to $60,000 of the requested funding would go toward staff salaries each year, with the rest of the money covering other operational expenses for things like advertising and travel.
Several councilmembers expressed opposition to LEDA’s recommendation, including Councilmember Dan Hahn, who said he has been “taking a huge amount of flak on this” issue from constituents who are “furious over thinking that tax dollars are going to go to salary.”
“People that I’ve been talking to are not happy,” Hahn said. “I will not be able to support this.”
Councilmember Missy White echoed those concerns, which she said she has also been “hearing” from her constituents.
“(This is) hard to both explain to and justify to the public,” White said. “I see this not being well-received … if that full level of funding were made available.”
She might be “more amenable” to the proposal at “a lower dollar threshold,” White said, or if it were implemented “in a phased” manner.
The city could also consider using general fund money, as opposed to optional half percent sales tax funds, to support LEDA, Councilmember Julia Stuble said.
That proposal “makes sense … if we have the funding,” Councilmember Melinda Cox replied, but she also voiced support for LEDA’s recommendation, which she said would “enhance our community in a way that will positively impact it for years to come.”
Councilmember John Larsen agreed with Cox that a dedicated staff member would enhance LEDA’s ability to make progress on economic development projects in town.
“I look at other organizations that have come up with a full-time administrator for their (nonprofit), and what a difference that makes,” he said. “(It) makes the whole project come alive – versus just struggling from day to day. … The volunteer workers, they can only spend so much time.”
Stuble suggested continuing the conversation when the city begins preparing its budget for the coming fiscal year.
The council denied the LEDA recommendation 4-3, with White, Stuble, Hahn, and Councilmember Josh Hahn voting “no,” while Larsen, Cox, and Mayor Monte Richardson voted “yes.”
The council approved three other recommendations from LEDA during the same meeting this week.
The first states that applications for economic development funding that score less than 50 percent on the eligibility matrix will not receive funding.
Second, LEDA recommended that requests for $15,000 or less “be advanced up one level in the scoring matrix.”
“This will reward applicants for requesting smaller amounts and allow for the funding of more applications,” the recommendation states.
Finally, LEDA said, requests for economic development funding should be limited to $50,000 “unless the application receives a score of 100 percent.”
“This will allow the best applications to be considered for additional funding but limit total funding for lower scoring applications,” LEDA said.
For more information call the City of Lander at 332-2870.