By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
With Stanton still fighting through tough economic times and facing a potential $4 million bill from the state, the city council is taking a closer look at where and how it spends the city’s money. On Tuesday the council looked at the $15,000 annual grant that the city pays to the Stanton Chamber of Commerce.
After a lengthy discussion with city manager Carol Jacobs and Chamber of Commerce executive director Billie Turner, the council agreed to continue funding the Chamber of Commerce for the next fiscal year with a 10 percent reduction, providing that the money is still available to the city.
The 10 percent cut is in line with other cuts the city has made, including employee salaries.
The council also wants a better idea of how the money is spent by the Chamber of Commerce. To begin with, council member Al Ethans requested that Turner hand in a balance sheet at the end of the current fiscal year in July. Any further funding will require a new contract that will have oversight measures in place.
Council member Brian Donahue brought the issue to the council’s agenda because he was concerned about the lack of oversight on how the grant money is currently spent by the Chamber of Commerce.
“We’ve been giving the chamber this grant since the ‘80s and there’s been no accountability,” he said. “It’s not good business.”
The city pays the grant in quarterly installments for each fiscal year. The grant is paid in full for the current year which ends in June. If the council were to continue paying the grant, a payment of $3,750 would be made in July for the first quarter of the 2010-11 fiscal year.
According to Turner, the money goes into the Chamber’s general fund so it is difficult to pinpoint how the money is spent. Donahue suggested that the money could be better used by the city’s new Business Alliance Program.
“It is still for business development and it allows us to be directly involved with the business community,” he added.
The Business Alliance Program is a new, council-directed program designed to support Stanton-based companies and foster new business. The first meeting is scheduled for June 16.
“It’s very much a baby but it will be growing rapidly,” Jacobs said.
The program is not intended to replace the Chamber of Commerce.
“A few items will step on the Chamber’s toes but most of the program’s items will not conflict with Chamber of Commerce duties,” Jacobs said.
Turner argued for continued funding, citing the Chamber’s dual role of promoting the city and its businesses. Turner also said that the role of the Chamber of Commerce should be to help government and business work together to create a better city.
“I don’t see where we’re coming together and making a difference together,” she said.
According to Turner, the grant was originally mandated in the 1980s to help keep the Chamber of Commerce doors open.
“You thought it was important enough then,” she said. “I don’t know if there’s anything that can help the businesses of this city like the Chamber of Commerce.”
Donahue argued that the Chamber of Commerce should be able raise enough money to function through member dues and fundraising efforts.
“I think the Chamber is more than capable of being self-sufficient,” he said.
Turner agreed that the Chamber of Commerce could become self-sufficient but said that more time was needed to establish more money-raising projects such as private fundraising.
“I’m asking you to at least keep the funding that’s already budgeted,” Turner said. “Give me time to get fundraising going.”
But for Jacobs, funding is first about having the money and second about prioritizing.
“I don’t want the council to be in a position to owe the state $4 million and have to choose between funding the chamber and funding code enforcement or graffiti removal,” Jacobs said.
The city redevelopment agency is responsible for paying the state. The deadline is May 10. City redevelopment agencies throughout the state have been tapped to send money to Sacramento.
A lawsuit seeking to stop the statewide collection is ongoing. A decision is expected in early May.