Thirty-nine organizations are asking the Stowe town government to support their work — in economic development, social services and other public goods.
Stowe Select Board members reviewed the requests Monday night, and wondered whether they’re the right people to do that work.
Organizations ranging from the American Red Cross to the Vermont Rural Protection Task Force are asking for Stowe’s support; many have asked before, but others are first-timers.
“This is the largest number I’ve ever seen come at us,” said Charles Safford, Stowe’s town manager.
“And I don’t see that changing,” said board member Morgan Nichols.
Among the new requests:
• $4,500 for the Stowe Jazz Festival, which drew 4,000 to its shows in 2019.
• $2,500 for the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center for its ice dance residency in March 2021.
• $2,500 for Vermont Foundation of Recovery, which helps recovering addicts to re-enter society.
• $500 for Good Beginnings of Vermont, which offers assistance to mothers and newborns.
• $500 for HomeShare Vermont, which matches homeowners with people who are looking for someone with a spare bedroom.
• $500 for the Vermont County Conservation District, which has received funding in the past.
After two hours of listening to pitches from organization representatives, the board elected not to weigh each request specifically. Instead, the board decided to cap new requests at $1,000, and to cap requests for increases at 20 percent for organizations already receiving public funding.
“There shouldn’t be an expectation that all asks should be 100-percent granted,” said board member Lisa Hagerty.
Among the increases:
• $2,750 to $3,300 for the Clarina Howard Nichols Center, which assists women and children affected by domestic violence.
• $3,000 to $3,600 for the Lamoille Family Center, which offers services to families and children from birth to age 24 throughout the Lamoille Valley.
• $7,000 to $8,400 for Lamoille Community Food Share, which provides food to hungry families in and around the county.
Board guidelines cap the total amount of money to support other organizations at 0.75 percent of the proposed general fund budget. That proposal totals $12,975,907; the proposed requests total $94,350, which is less than the $97,319 cap established under the guidelines.
On the social services side, guidelines cap the total amount requested at 0.5 percent of the proposed general fund budget, which in this case would be $64,880; the social service requests total $53,812. All told, requested appropriations total $148,162, which amounts to 1.1 percent of the proposed general fund budget.
Stowe Area Association
Among the requests heard Monday night was $40,000 for the Stowe Area Association, double the $20,000 it got this fiscal year.
Carrie Simmons, the association’s executive director, said the money would help operate the Visitor Center on Main Street, which gets as many as 600 people a day during peak foliage season and assisted more than 60,000 people with information in the past year.
Without a fully staffed Visitor Center two fewer public restrooms would be available to downtown visitors, Simmons said.
“What happens next year?” asked board chair Willie Noyes. “Is this going to happen every two years, a double increase to run your operation?”
Hagerty asked if the association provides information to visitors about businesses that are not members, and board member Neil Van Dyke said that, “at times, they have not given information about businesses that are not members.”
Association representatives did not answer the question, but instead asserted the organization benefits all business owners, whether they are members or not. “There are a lot of people who are riding our coattails,” said Bruce Nourjian, who owns the Commodores Inn and is an association trustee.
In the end, the board decided to include the $20,000 in the budget for the Akeley Memorial Building, similar to how the town funds public restrooms at the Green Mountain Inn.
Stowe Community Foundation?
Near the close of the meeting, Hagerty suggested that, in the future, the town might consider establishing a foundation that would receive funding from the town government; that foundation, in turn, would review and approve appropriation requests from economic development and social service organizations.
“Perhaps this shouldn’t be the purview of the select board,” Hagerty suggested.
The next budget meeting is on Monday, Jan. 27.