Cary trustees split on whether to fund Community Grant Program

CARY – With the village facing a deficit for the next budget year, Cary trustees were split on whether to award money to area nonprofits through the Community Grant Program.

While $15,000 in grant money was budgeted to go to four organizations, the Village Board ultimately decided to give $8,000 to the Cary-Grove Area Chamber of Commerce for Main Street Fest; $2,000 to the Rotary Club of Cary-Grove for the Cary Summer Farmers Market; and $1,000 to the Cary 26 Education Foundation for the Cary Shuffle 5K. 

The mission of the program is to fund nonprofit grant requests that provide cultural, recreational and youth or senior services that contribute to the quality of life in Cary, according to village documents. 

“I’m going to be voting no on all of these tonight, and the reason why is we’re facing [a] huge deficit next year, and I think it’s important that we save those funds for that,” Trustee Kim Covelli said at the June 20 Village Board meeting.

Trustee Jim Cosler agreed, adding the spending has to end when the village is facing a large deficit. 

“This year our general fund, it is balanced,” Village Administrator Jake Rife said at meeting. “These items were budgeted. We do have the ability to fund – next year it’s going to be a different story.”

Last year was the first year of the program, and $30,000 in grant awards were given out, Rife said. The money comes from the village’s general fund. An expected $500,000 deficit in fiscal 2019 means the program money might be reduced again or eliminated, Rife said.  

The village is currently in its 2018 budget year – fiscal years for municipalities run from May to April.

The largest grant went to Main Street Fest, but some trustees argued the Chamber shouldn’t receive money because it made a profit on the event last year. 

The chamber is expecting 7,500 to 10,000 people to attend the festival this year, Chamber Executive Director Lynn Caccavallo said.

"This event is meant to benefit the entire community of Cary, but each year the Cary-Grove Area Chamber of Commerce solely bears the financial risk of producing this event," Caccavallo said in a statement, adding that bad weather could result in a large financial loss to the Chamber.

The grant money will help offset costs including performers, stage and sound equipment, inflatable jump houses and the cost of printing promotions, among other items, Caccavallo said.

“I just don’t think that taxpayers are obligated to go ahead and pay their rainy day fund,” Trustee Jennifer Weinhammer said. 

Mayor Mark Kownick, however, disagreed. 

“We made a commitment to the Chamber with regards to this, and I think that we’re not doing our community any justice by pulling funding for our largest event that we have in town,” Kownick said.

Trustee Ellen McAlpine said the village shouldn’t have asked organizations to apply for the grants if trustees didn’t want to fund them. 

Weinhammer, Cosler and Covelli voted ‘no’ for all the grants. Trustee Jeff Kraus voted ‘yes’ for all grants except the Cary Soccer Association Tournament – he previously said he felt the tournament should be asking for support from the Cary Park District instead of the village. 

Trustees Christine Betz and McAlpine voted ‘yes’ for all grants, and Kownick broke ties with ‘yes’ votes for the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club and Education Foundation grants.

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