FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18 CITY COUNCIL SPECIAL MEETING – 12noon-2pm, online only.
In summary, the two issues being discussed at this meeting are: 1) a proposed amendment to the 2020-2021 budget that would makes funds available to send each Grand County household $45 in coupons to use like cash at local businesses, and 2) creating a community grant fund.
You can watch the Dec 18 meeting live (or after the fact) on the City’s YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/MoabCityGovernment.
The 7-page packet for Dec 18 can be found here: https://moabcity.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_12182020-997?packet=true.
If you prefer the 1-page agenda only, with links to packet parts, that is here: https://moabcity.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_12182020-997.
Here are details on the Dec 18 agenda:
Public Hearing on proposed Resolution 46-2020: a resolution amending the Fiscal Year 2020/2021 Budget
This item makes up the bulk of our Dec 18 meeting. Our Dec 18 packet only contains a short agenda summary on page 6, and related resolution on page 5 (duplicated on page 7). These don’t go into detail about why we’re entertaining this budget amendment, so I’ll offer extra context here, with preemptive apologies for any errors that might exist in my interpretation of this item thus far:
- In our last regular Council meeting (Dec 8), City Manager Linares explained during his administrative report that the City is contemplating undertaking two extra programs in the 2020-2021 budget year thanks to our CARES Act funds: a Buy Local coupon program, and a community grant program. (If you’d like to listen to that discussion, which offers good background, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzAUchS98Ho; the relevant discussion begins at the 57-minute, 29-second mark (57:29), and runs to the 1-hour, 13-minute mark (1:13:00).)
- You may wonder why in the year of COVID we have these funds available. Good question. First, CARES Act funds we received are helping us cover other key expenses, such as the City’s law enforcement budget for the year. Next, City staff have been aggressive about saving money wherever possible this year. In addition, our sales tax revenues towards the end of 2020 have been much better than earlier in 2020. Thus, here at year’s end, we find we actually have the ability to put funds back into the community. It’s also my understanding from Linares that one of the hopes of Utah legislators in giving us and other resort communities more CARES funds in the 3rd stage/tranche of CARES fund dispersal than in the 1st and 2nd tranches, was that it would allow at least some support of local businesses harmed by COVID.
- The $200,000 we are contemplating using are not CARES funds per se, but getting the CARES funds made using this $200,000 from our general fund possible.
- Thus the idea is to put $100,000 into a coupon program to help Grand County residents buy local, and to put an additional $100,000 into a community grant program for the 2020-2021 budget year.
- If we want to use funds for these two programs, it requires amending our 2020-2021 budget, and hence we are having this Dec 18 public hearing about amending it.
- The idea behind the coupon program as I understand it is: to mail every household in the 84532 zip code (so County residents as well as City residents) three $15 coupons to use at any local participating business. Coupons can be used as if they are cash. Businesses can simply sign up with the City to participate, and just need to have a current business license. The way this works is that a resident brings one or more coupons to a given business, uses them like cash for a good or service, then the business redeems the coupon(s) for cash with the City. In this way, funds can help support a local business, as well as the resident by giving them extra winter spending cash.
- Our December 18 meeting is the opportunity for the public to voice if they support the City amending its 2020-2021 budget to allow us to spend $200,000 in this way.
- In terms of added info, if it helps, I see the City now has a web page about the coupons program here: https://moabcity.org/566/Moab-Buy-Local-Bucks. It’s my understanding they’ve been waiting to list businesses interested in signing up until Friday to see if Council indeed approves the budget amendment allowing use of funds for the coupon program.
- As I understand it the coupons would be valid until at least 3-1-21, and longer if the $100,000 wasn’t redeemed by then. The goal is apparently to mail coupons out to households on Dec 21, 2020.
- I should also note that in our discussions on Dec 8, it was also noted that if a nonprofit organization has a business license, one could donate coupons to them, and the nonprofit could redeem the coupon(s) for cash from the City. Likewise, if you wanted a single coupon to benefit multiple parties, you could use it to buy a gift card from a participating business, and give that to a second party, whether a friend or a nonprofit.
- I would encourage anyone with additional question or suggestions for Council on either the coupon or grant aspect of this, to call or zoom in to our Dec 18 meeting, or to use the form link for Dec 18. I’m sure there are aspects of this that can be better with your input, and it’s also good for us to know if residents don’t want money spent in this way.
- Finally, a few of you asked me why we couldn’t send 3 coupons per resident instead of per household, based on voter registration or driver’s license records. You pointed out coupons can be hard to split amid roommates or couples. I wanted to let you know staff did consider this and Assistant Manager Castle let me know the following, which seems a good call: “As staff, we also had an equity question when designing the voucher distribution. We opted for three, $15 coupons to each residence precisely to better achieve this equity goal. So, members of a household with up to three roommates, or a few renting, or a home with an unmarried couple, etc. would each get a bite at the apple. We realize the three coupons won’t fit every situation, but it’s more equitable than sending a single, $45 voucher. Driver’s licenses and voter registration records would actually include a pretty limited number of people–not everyone in our community (especially the underserved populations of our community) have driver’s licenses, or are registered to vote.”
- The remaining $100,000 would be used toward a community grants program; the Council hasn’t discussed the details of that yet, so I can’t offer more information at this time. I think local nonprofits and government bodies such as special service districts could apply, but need to confirm that on Friday.
Thanks for your interest and please let me know if you have questions or concerns. If we don’t connect before year’s end, I wish you a safe remainder of the year, and please feel free to join me in giving 2020 a swift kick out the door come 12-31-20! Here’s hoping 2021 is much better for all of us and our neighbors near and far! Happy New Year.
Rani Derasary, Moab City Councilmember