With a number of outside agency funding requests coming in from groups across Windsor, the town board has addressed the issue in a series of fiery exchanges in recent weeks, prompting what some view as a badly needed look at funding request protocol.
Monday’s meeting was no exception as the board temporarily suspended requests from the Windsor Community Choir and A Woman’s Place Inc. — requests that totalled more than $6,000. Board members made it clear that future requests should be sidelined until the board can decide on a streamlined, consistent and regulated system in the coming weeks.
The current case-by-case system has been in place for about four years, according to Town Manager Kelly Arnold. Citing an apparent sense of urgency by the board, he said the issue will be up for discussion during the Nov. 5 meeting and throughout the month and into December.
The town budgeted $62,300 in 2012 for outside agency funding requests, according to meeting documents. So far, projects including the Windsor Harvest Festival, Lauren Project and Christopher Birdwell Memorial donations have accounted for almost half of the funds.
As of Oct. 15, about $35,700 remained.
Under the current system, groups requesting money meet with town staff and go before the Windsor Town Board to make a case for why they deserve the supplemental funding. Board members then weigh the pros, cons, budgetary limitations and benefits to Windsor before typically giving the go-ahead.
That system of picking and choosing without specific regulations hasn’t sat well with board member Jeremy Rose, who has often been vocally concerned about funding various groups with taxpayer money. In the six months since he was elected, he said Monday he couldn’t recall the board ever denying a request.
“Every one is different and every one has certain parts that people like,” Rose said, stressing a need to put “something concrete” together to make the process more efficient.
Mayor Pro-Tem Kristie Melendez has also been a longtime advocate of re-evaluating the way funding requests are handled, especially in a turbulent economy. In recent meetings, she asked applicants for additional financial information to determine the true need for town dollars.
“I think we have to be very cautious moving forward,” she said Monday, adding there are many other organizations in Windsor that could certainly use the money, though haven’t come before the board — yet.
“It could open the door for a flood of new requests,” she said. “I think we have to decide as a board what we’re going to set as the parameters.”
The question remained Monday how best to deal with pending requests for the women’s shelter, which has received support from the board in previous years to the tune of$ 5,000, and the community choir, which requested $1,200 to purchase music for community events and concerts in the spring.
John Vazquez was hesitant to table the requests, noting that it didn’t seem fair to deny these requests because they came during a time of transition. He defended his current way of approaching the issue, which he said often hinges on community value rather than just economic return on investment.
Though in favor of evaluating the current system, he cautioned that changes could ultimately convolute the process, tying the board’s hands when it came to potentially controversial requests.
“I guess my preference would be (to) do it on a case-by-case basis ... until we have the policy hammered out,” he said.
The Nov. 5 meeting is expected to review history of the current process and why the structured process bogged down groups in details in the past. Further discussion will be planned in at least two following meetings.