Fairfield City Council committed Monday night to phase out its community grant program as the board approved to fund only three of the five community organizations seeking funds.
Ending the community grant program, which had awarded about $150,000 before the city capped the total at $36,000 in 2013, has been a discussion for several years. Though the amount is a fraction of its $75.6 million proposed 2020 budget, Councilman Tim Abbott said there are other issues the city needs to address.
“We’ve got a request from the court system for a magistrate, we got a lot of other challenges coming our way,” said the long-time council member.
D’Epifanio has never been supportive of the community grant program and has advocated its elimination for years, saying, “It’s taxpayers money, and we’re taking it and giving it away.” He said taxpayers should directly support charitable and community organizations on their own.
Council agreed to award grants to the Fairfield Community Foundation, Fairfield Prevention Coalition and the Fairfield Food Pantry. The Community Foundation will receive $10,000 for its computer software and hardware upgrade, and the Fairfield Prevention Coalition and Fairfield Food Pantry will receive $7,500 each. The coalition is looking to fill the funding gap being created when its federal funds expire next year, and the food pantry will use the funds to supports its growing clientele.
The city did not fund the Fairfield branch of the YMCA, saying it previously gave the organization $75,000 per year over four years for another project. The Fairfield YMCA is raising funds to make its facility 100 percent ADA compliant. Partners in Prime was the fifth organization seeking money.
Councilman Chad Oberson was supportive of eliminating the program Monday night, and not funding any of the organizations, though he said he supports their missions.
“I’ll be the bad guy and say we phase them out today,” said Oberson, adding, “I don’t think it’s our place.”
While D’Epifanio was on board with the suggestion, the majority of the council agreed to put organizations “on notice” and phase out the program.
“(Councilman) Bill (Woeste) nailed on the head, how are they going to replace it this year (if it’s phased out this year)?” said Abbott. “And then we put them on notice that we’re going to phase this out over two years, and then we have a timeline that we can stick to.”
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