Vice Mayor Nate Kilton proposed the city enter into a matching program with Plant City Main Street to give it a chance to obtain funding in the upcoming fiscal year.
Of the several unexpected twists brought up throughout Monday night’s city commission meeting, Vice Mayor Nate Kilton tossing a metaphorical life preserver to Plant City Main Street received the most attention.
In a controversial move on July 30, the city announced it would no longer provide its annual $50,000 support to the barely two-year-old organization. Its board members were told mere days prior to the public proposed budget presentation. After more than a month of discussion, it seems the city has had a change of heart, sort of, as Kilton stated the city should consider offering an alternative matching program to the group.
“One item that was removed from the budget was the funding for the Main Street program,” Kilton said. “I can appreciate the concern for watching every penny and making sure that we’re good stewards and I know there’s been some challenges with the group with some initial fundraising and funding in their infancy, but I do believe that there’s a desire for that program in Plant City.”
After speaking to the board members of the organization Kilton said the city should agree to match funds raised in $10,000 increments up to $50,000 over the course of the next fiscal year. Essentially, if Main Street successfully raises $10,000, the city will give them $10,000 to bump their total budget up to $20,000 and so forth.
The allotted funds would be set aside from the Community Redevelopment Agency’s contingency fund. Several of Main Street’s board were present at the public hearing and Lizzette Sarria, chairman of Plant City Main Street, confirmed they were on board with the new agreement.
“We are very pleased that the city commission is going to support Main Street,” Sarria said. “Our current work plan will support this.”
Commissioner Bill Dodson voiced his concern for the current method the city relies upon to distribute funding for organizations. He said the method used to fund nonprofits needs to be reconsidered and that funding should be more pragmatic and not political, which he fears may have become the case.
“To do that, I think accountability as a benchmark for funding is inevitable,” Dodson said.
He referenced the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce as an example of what a solid recipient would look like. The Chamber is set to receive $65,000 from the city if the proposed fiscal year 2018-2019 budget is approved and the majority of its funding “comes from its own resourcefulness,” according to Dodson.
Earlier that evening, Chamber President Christine Miller walked commissioners through the successes of the organization and discussed the benefits it provides.
For the upcoming year, Miller said the Chamber’s budget is approximately $600,000. Of that, only $65,000 is slotted to come from the city. Miller said approximately 51% of the total finances comes directly from fundraising and other components, like new and renewed Chamber membership, make up the rest of the total budget. Dodson praised this self-sufficiency and said he would like to see other recipients attempt to be as self-reliant as the Chamber.
“I believe if you don’t create these types of benchmarks, you’re going to have standing room only for nonprofits seeking easy money,” Dodson said. “I believe it’s important to, it’s easy to get away from accountability and into entitlements when you’ve been providing funding for such a time without accountability that the appearance of it begins to be entitlement. I don’t support that. I believe in giving a helping hand when nonprofits have recognizable missions, when it’s something that will help our city and you can prove it. But I don’t believe in handing out these entitlements.”
Dodson warned if in the future organizations came looking for said “easy money” he would use his vote to sustain city funds by encouraging it only be placed in the hands of those that would be making the most of the help.
Main Street is confident it will be able to thrive under the matching program and the final vote on the budget will be at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24 in City Hall.