Thursday, February 22, 2024

City Awards $1 Million in Community Grants, but Rejects $1 Million More

Updated 06/29/2023

Coronado Fourth of July received two separate grants, totaling nearly $100,000. Image: CFOJ

A small funding cut came across the board for community grant winners as the City Council wrestled $2.1 million in grant applications into its $1 million budget.

The most grant money went to Safe Harbor Coronado, pulling in $134,396 total, while the Coronado Hospital Foundation received nothing despite high scores on its grant application.

The city received 50 applications from 32 unique organizations for its annual community grants, and ultimately allocated funding to 23 organizations during a City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 20.

The council anchored its discussion on recommended funding awards from city staff based on a five-step process of grant review, adding or removing funding at its discretion. After nearly four hours of deliberation, during which the council adjusted funding, the budget was still $9,000 short, so the council implemented a 1.4 percent cut to all awarded grants to meet its $1,015,000 budget.

Each application is read and scored out of 100 possible points by three independent, anonymous grant readers. Any application with an average score under 75 is ineligible for funding.

This year, 18 applications were disqualified by their scores, including applications from the Coronado Chamber of Commerce, Emerald Keepers, and Coronado International Film Festival. (The council ultimately reallocated some funding to each of them.)

This caused some division on the council.

“I think we need to do what we were elected to do and make the tough decisions,” said council member John Duncan. “To just say the readers are the ones who get to decide what happens is, to me, not doing what we’re supposed to do here.”

Duncan referenced Emerald Keepers, which was awarded $53,000 in funding last year. The environmental organization’s scores on one grant were 95, 80, and 47, bringing its average to 74 – one point below the threshold for funding.

“What we’re saying by not funding that grant is that one reader in this community has just decided that Emerald Keepers should not be functioning going forward,” Duncan said.

The council agreed, and found money to allocate to the organization by reducing or eliminating funding from higher-scoring organizations.

That’s how the Coronado Hospital Foundation, whose recommended allocation of $78,330 would help fund a C-Arm medical imaging device, lost its funding. The CHF has $31 million in its endowment and operates on interest from that endowment.

“Four percent interest on that is more than double what they say their operating budget is,” Duncan said. “We’re going to say we’re making cuts to (other programs) because they don’t want to touch their endowment?”

The community grants process was retooled several years ago under Mayor Richard Bailey.

“Previously, the grant requests drove our city’s budget,” Bailey said. “We literally approved grant requests before we adopted a budget. That’s terrible governance.”

The council approved its $1.015 million grant budget earlier this year. Kelli Maples, a management analyst for the city, reported a steep, 36% increase in funding requested this year. There is a $150,000 cap on total funding awarded to specific organizations, and a $100,000 per-project cap.

“I think people are starting to understand how to game the system,” said councilmember Mike Donovan. “I was surprised at how many applications came in just at the maximum – just at $150,000 – and then they kind of back into how they got to that number. The other thing that was disappointing to me is that almost every single organization we funded last year came in at two, three, or four times the amount they got last year.”

Grant applicants were given the chance to speak before the council deliberated, and many said inflation drove their increased budgets.

Councilors also questioned whether money was being evenly distributed among its four areas of funding: arts and culture, community pride and sense of place, economic development, and social services.

“We give a large amount of money to the arts, and we are shortchanging other categories,” councilmember Carrie Downey said. “Although I’m a humongous supporter of the arts … they’re kind of repetitive. If we’ve decided our goal is for Coronado to be the arts organization and community of the world, we’re off to a good start, because that’s where we’re putting the majority of our funding.”

Downey said many of the grant awardees could increase their ticket prices to decrease their dependence on municipal funding, while Bailey noted that Coronado’s free Concerts in the Park asks only for police security from the city and manages its events at a larger scale.

By that logic, the council agreed to cut funding from the Coronado Philharmonia Orchestra, Musica Vitale, and the Villa-Lobos International Chamber Music Festival.

Though the council was divided at times, it agreed on one thing: Making cuts was not easy.

“There isn’t an easy way to pull ourselves out of the box we’ve put ourselves in,” said councilmember Casey Tanaka. “If our dollar amount is $1,015,000, every time we say yes to Emerald Keepers or the Floral Association or whoever else, we’re saying no to someone else.”

Below is a list of all grant recipients, which the council approved unanimously. A further breakdown of grant-specific projects, plus the scores for all applications, can be found here.

Arts and Culture: $311,450

  • Coronado Island Film Festival, $80,000
  • Lamb’s Players Theatre, $50,501
  • Coronado Historical Association
    • Coronado’s African American History Exhibit, $15,391
    • Coronado’s Ferries from the Della to Today Exhibit, $14,429
  • Musica Vitale
    • Crown City Chorale General Operating Support, $6,491
    • Musica Vitale 2023‐2024 Mainstage and In‐School Programming, $17,045
  • Coronado Philharmonia Orchestra, $23,152
  • Coronado Schools Foundation, $21,959
    • Coronado Art & Wine Festival, $21,959
  • Coronado Community Theatre, $20,246
  • Coronado Community Band, $17,174
  • Classics 4 Kids Inc., $15,389
  • Coronado Music and Arts Foundation
    • Coronado Music Festival, $15,000
  • Villa‐Lobos International Chamber Music Festival $11,604
  • Storytellers of San Diego $3,069

Community Pride Sense of Place: $321,222

  • Coronado Fourth of July
    • Coronado Fourth of July Leapfrogs and Fireworks, $43,364
    • Coronado Fourth of July Parade, $52,249
  • Coronado Floral Association
    • Coronado Flower Show, $84,000
  • Coronado Historical Association
    • Keep the Coronado Museum free, $75,000
  • Emerald Keepers, $38,425
  • Coronado Chamber of Commerce
    • Holiday Parade & Tree Lighting, $15,391
  • MainStreet Coronado, $8,693
  • Memorial Day Ceremony Planning Committee, $2,600
  • Coronado Community Band
    • Coronado Community Band ‐ July 4th Patriotic Concert, $1,500

Economic Development: $151,839

  • Coronado Chamber of Commerce
    • Coronado Visitor Center Website, $34,882
    • Promotion of the City of Coronado and its Businesses, $55,436
  • MainStreet Coronado
    • Economic Vitality, $36,521
  • Coronado Island Film Festival
    • Production of the Annual Coronado Island Film Festival 2023, $25,000

Social Services: $230,489

  • Safe Harbor Coronado
    • Family Support Services, $59,396
    • Healthy Families Program, $75,000
  • Pacific Animal Welfare Society
    • Behavior Expansion Grant for PAWS of Coronado, $26,835
  • Friends of Children United Society, $23,279
  • Reading Legacies, $13,837
  • Coronado Little League, $12,000
  • Emerald Keepers
    • Student Clubs & Internship Program, $10,825
  • Coronado Schools Foundation
    • Robotics Team Expansion Request, $9,317

Total: $1,015,000

Other City Council Business

  • Public comment is open for the city’s draft historic context statement, which will serve as the city’s guide for preserving historical properties. The report includes a survey that identifies 1,332 properties that could be considered historic under current guidelines. In the fall, the council will consider public input for next steps, which could include changing the environmental requirements for historical designation or reducing the requisite age of a historic property from 75 years to 50. The report and instructions for submitting comment can be found here.
  • David Spatafore will return for a second term on the Discover Coronado Board, and will be joined by newcomers Colleen Cavalieri and Christine Stokes after the council voted unanimously on the appointments.
  • Solid waste rates will increase by 9.39% for residential customers and 12.84% for commercial consumers after the council approved a proposed rate increase from EDCO. Rates will be $27.48 and $135.43, respectively.
  • The council declared July Parks and Recreation month. The department is offering camps and daycare for youth throughout the summer, as well as adult programming. The department’s director, Tim Bailey, said “recreation and golf activities really are paramount to improving the overall health and wellbeing of our community.”

Edited June 29, 2023: Discover Coronado board appointments updated.

Megan Kitt
Megan Kitt
Megan has worked as a reporter for more than 15 years, and her work in both print and digital journalism has been published in more than 25 publications worldwide. She is also an award-winning photographer. She holds BA degrees in journalism, English literature and creative writing and an MA degree in creative writing and literature. She believes a quality news publication's purpose is to strengthen a community through informative and connective reporting.Megan is also a mother of three and a Navy spouse. After living around the world both as a journalist and as a military spouse, she immediately fell in love with San Diego and Coronado for her family's long-term home.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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