ENCINITAS — The City Council made few changes in the staff recommendations as it unanimously appropriated funds for the city of Encinitas and Mizel Family Foundation Community Grant Program during the June 20 meeting.
However, only three council members voted to allocate funds as Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar and Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks both recused themselves from the proceedings due to existing relationships with some of the groups requesting money.
Just as she did the previous year, Gaspar told the audience that “due to financial conflicts of interest” she was using an “abundance of caution” in not participating in the allocation process because she has served on several of the boards seeking funds.
Stocks, who is an insurance broker to many of those who are in some way involved in the various organizations seeking grants from the city said he felt compelled to recuse himself from the vote.
Alice Jacobson, an arts commissioner, served as chair of the evaluation panel along with four others representing the city’s five volunteer commissions.
“They do a huge job for the city,” arts administrator Jim Gilliam said.
The city’s general fund contributed $75,000, with a matching grant from the Mizel Family Foundation. That is an increase of $9,000 from the previous fiscal year.
The panel initially recommended the council allocate all but approximately $8,000. A high number of organizations sought funding this year, according to Gilliam. “This is an all-time high for the community grants program,” Gilliam told the council. With 28 arts organizations and 28 civic groups participating the total applicants is almost at the all time high of 59 set in 2009.
From school band programs to art therapy for cancer patients, the grants spanned the gamut of community enrichment. But not all of them received high enough marks to receive funding to the dismay of some council members.
Several groups were present to ask the council to increase their funding grants. Wendy Morris of the Assistance League of San Dieguito asked that the group’s funds be increased from $4,000 to $5,000 in order to provide clothing for low-income elementary school children.
“We always come to you thankful,” she told the council. However, granting her request to increase the funding amount would be an even greater benefit to the community’s children. “We spend $70 per child,” she said, referring to the Operation School Bell program that outfits kids with clothes and school supplies.
“Attendance at school is important and we support education,” she said.
Each decision required a unanimous vote since only three council members were present.
“I think Jim (Gilliam) and the group have done a good job of allocating it and I’m not for taking money away,” said Councilman Jim Bond. “We’ve got some $7,800 burning a hole in our pocket right now. It’s hard to fly in the face of their decision,” he added.
The council made modest adjustments to the allocation amounts of some organizations and managed to spend the entire grant amount.
“I’ll spend it all if you don’t choose some dollar amounts,” Council member Teresa Barth told Council member Mark Muir when he said he wasn’t sure how much to give the organizations he supported that were not fully funded.
Lloyd O’Connel, representing the Encinitas Historical Society was successful in increasing the group’s funding request by an additional $357. The society plans to digitize a photo archive stretching back to 1875 that will be available on the group’s website.
Dana MacNamara from Scrumptious Schoolyards asked the council to fund the group’s efforts to expand Cardiff Elementary School’s raised vegetable garden beds from four to 20. “This will give each child the opportunity to participate in the program,” she said. While the initial funding request was denied, the council decided to grant the program $1,500.
Jessica Toth, a Rob Machado Foundation representative, said the group wants to put recycle bins at Encinitas athletic fields and beach access points. Currently, Cardiff athletic fields enjoy the bins, Toth said. “It shows residents, particularly youth that the environment is important.” Muir said he supported an increase in funding. The council settled on $1,500.