Prop. 58 grant money a fall back for Weed after Measure M loss
An avenue for attracting money to refurbish its recreation facilities was lost when Weed’s Measure M sales tax was defeated at the polls on November 3. Kim Greene, a city council member and Weed Recreation and Parks District director, said the district’s use of the tax would have gone, in part, to paying matching funds for grants, which the department might apply for in the future. Without money for matching funds, a good chunk of the grants available to it are out of reach for the cash strapped district.
But the city was not moping over the Measure M loss during its monthly meeting last Thursday night. Before the dust was settled regarding the final vote count, the Weed City Council approved a grant application that would pay for repairs and even build recreation facilities located in its parks, with no matching funds required.
The council voted to apply for Per Capita Grant Funds, a feature of Proposition 68. The grant will be used for “local park rehabilitation, creation, and improvement”, according to the California Parks and Recreation website.
Both the city and the recreation district would receive $177,000 each from the fund, which is a one-time-only grant. The city owns the parks and is allowed to apply for the grant, in addition to and separately from the recreation district. The recreation district leases the parks, for 30 years at a time, and will administer the funds that both entities receive, according to Greene.
“We could build a new park, a dog park, install lights in a park (with the money) – but it has be attached to a park and has to be recreation-related,” said Greene.
The application for the grant was approved by the council, 3-0. Both Greene and Mayor Susan Tavalero did not vote because of their ties to the recreation department. Tavalero serves on its board.
Greene spoke about the Measure M vote and the Per Capita Grant a day after the council meeting. She said the money from the grant will be used to refurbish the Bel Air Pool, which otherwise would not re-open in 2021 because of its poor condition.
Other items on the district’s “wish-list” include lights for the softball field at Bel Air Park, lights for horse shoe pits, a cover for the bocce ball court and possibly the construction of pickleball courts.
A 20% matching-fund is required for the Per Capita Grant Funds – unless citizen income is lower than 60% of the state’s median. For this reason Weed and the district will receive the grant without paying the 20% matching-fund.
The Per Capita Grant might be a consoling fall-back position after the defeat of the quarter-percent sales tax (475-461), but the district continues searching out ways to meet needs that are still outstanding.
It’s not all straight forward. Some grants have matching-fund requirements that won’t be waived, and applying for them isn’t always possible. In discussing the predicament, Greene said the district would have been able to use Measure M money to apply for grants that required up-front money.
“Yes, Measure M would have given us cash to fix the pool. But the pool building is old, too. It needs work, too,” she said, referring to the continuing search for more money.
Grant project must be completed before the entity receives the grant funds. The recreation district recently spent eight months looking for money to upgrade its energy systems, in order to use a guaranteed grant that would repay them only after the upgrade was done. The district finally took out a bank loan in July, which paid for to have the system upgraded. The district expects to repay the bank loan from the grant money when it is received.
But for an entity with no cash reserves, the loan wasn’t the most efficient way to make use of money, according to Greene.
“We don’t have cash flow for matching funds or up-front money. We have to go out and look for it. Borrowing cuts into the money you get because you have interest to pay, as time goes by on the loan. If we’d had Measure M money, we would have still gotten that grant. But we wouldn’t have had to borrow, we’d have funded the renewable energy project ourselves with Measure M money and saved the interest,” Greene said.
The Per Capita Grant Fund is part of the Parks and Water Bond Act (Proposition 68), approved by California voters in 2018.