A number of groups last week approached the City Council to seek city money, but most acknowledged the city’s tough budget situation.
The council held a special meeting Friday to hear presentations from local nonprofit groups trying to make the case for public funds. The city must submit a final budget to the state by month’s end.
“We need to increase revenues and cut expenditures. At the same time, we need to expand services,” City Manager Sharon Caballero said.
The first to address the council was former Mayor Henry Sanchez on behalf of Love Your Neighbor, a group of local churches, faith-based organizations and others. He said he and others helped form the group a few years ago to avoid problems associated with the state constitution’s anti-donation clause, which bars public money from going toward private purposes.
He recognized some may have concerns with public money going to an effort involving churches.
“When I say churches, people talk about church and state, but people are people,” the former mayor said. “Every penny goes to the poor.”
Sanchez said the group has agreed to focus its efforts on senior citizens, but would make exceptions in emergency situations. He said one of the group’s main efforts was helping the elderly heat their homes — for instance, Love Your Neighbor gave 500 cords of wood to the elderly and others a couple of years ago. The group also helps seniors with their weeds, especially when city code officers are asking that they be cut.
“I know you’re not going to have money this year. We want to be in line for when you have it,” Sanchez said.
He noted that he didn’t present a figure to the council.
“How much do we need? As much as you can give us,” he said.
Another former mayor, Matt Martinez, speaking on behalf of the Las Vegas-San Miguel Economic Development Corporation, said he did have a number in his group’s request — $102,000 —which would be more than twice the current $40,000 EDC gets annually.
He referred to the proposal drafted by Caballero when she was still EDC’s executive director.
Part of the increase would go toward matching a grant from the Kellogg Foundation, which is an extension of the cereal maker. The grant would provide $25,000 to EDC for each of the next two years, contingent on whether the group can get government funding matching Kellogg dollar for dollar, EDC officials have said.
The grants would fund training for entrepreneurs, essentially providing a think tank for businesses in town to expand. If the city gives a combined $50,000 over the next couple of years to match the Kellogg grants, Los Alamos National Laboratory is likely to kick in matching funds that would bring the total up to $200,000, EDC maintains.
Besides the Kellogg grant, EDC needs more money to improve recruitment materials and activities and advertising and lobbying efforts, according to the group.
Martinez said an increase for the group would be appropriate this year because of the tough economic times, saying the money would help EDC get the “word out to the right folks.”
“We used to look at big companies hoping they would solve all of our problems. We’re looking within now, but we are being flexible for new companies,” he said. “We lose students who come out of our colleges. We’re always going to lose some, but we want them to have the choice, not to be forced to leave.”
Shannon Aragon, coach of Las Vegas Kryptonite, a baseball team consisting of 13- and 14-year-olds from both sides of town, asked the city for money to help with his team’s travel. He said the team placed in the top five statewide last year and came in third this year.
The Kryptonite is the only team at its age level locally, so it is required to travel elsewhere for nearly all of its games, Aragon said.
Councilwoman Diane Moore made out a personal check for $100 for the team and challenged her colleagues to do the same. Mayor Tony Marquez said he couldn’t match but would donate what he could, and Councilman Andrew Feldman said he didn’t have his checkbook but promised to meet Moore’s challenge.
Gretchen Bush of Samaritan House requested the city give her group $10,000 to help homeless residents of Las Vegas as well as those passing through town.
In an earlier presentation, the group had stated that it provided 185 nights at local motels for homeless people last year, a number the group expects to increase to 200 this year.
Samaritan House has seen its funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency cut in half, which prompted its request to the city.
As with Love Your Neighbor, Samaritan House involves faith-based efforts. As such, the city has requested a legal opinion on whether it can donate to the two groups.
Dennis Nathan of MainStreet Las Vegas asked the city to increase its funding from $25,000 to $30,000 for his group. City officials assured him that was already in the budget.
The council didn’t take any action on the requests but plans to do so later.
Council members Cruz Roybal and Morris Madrid didn’t attend Friday’s meeting. Caballero said Roybal called in sick and Madrid was on a business trip.