Supervisors try to wean groups off public money

After years of approving requests for funding from those big, brown puppy eyes of local nonprofits and other groups, the Mono County supervisors kept their promise to stick to a budget they set last year to cap funds for “non-county organizations” at $75,000.

Twenty organizations attended the Mono County supervisors meeting Tuesday, Oct. 16, with hands outstretched for some county bounty.

Between Jazz Jubilee, Swim Team, AYSO, Chamber Music Unbound, avalanche predictions, trails, 4H science camps, and several others, the total amount of money requested landed at $139,861.

“We decided we were going in the direction of weaning people off public sector money,” said Supervisor Larry Johnston. “It always comes to this discussion. Everyone wants a frugal, efficient government, but everyone wants money from it, too.”

Dispersing county money to local nonprofits and other groups had “snow-balled” in previous years, the supervisors noted, and they said this was the year they weren’t going to give in to those big, brown eyes.
It’s not because they don’t want to, but because they just can’t.

The Mammoth Lakes $29.5 million MLLA settlement didn’t help the matter, either. Traditionally, the Town of Mammoth Lakes contributed to some of the groups. This year, with either nonexistent or dramatically diminished funding from the town, there was more pressure on the county.

The county is also trying to stay solvent, build a reserve for even worse times, and provide the absolutely necessary functions of a government (public safety, roads, bridges, etc.), the supervisors said.

Johnston proposed giving nothing to the up-and-coming June Lake Loop Music Festival, cutting Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access (MLTPA) to almost nothing, and cutting the requests from many of the groups by about half.

“You’re going to look like Santa Claus when I get done,” said Supervisor Hap Hazard to Johnston. Then he turned to the audience and said, “I’m not going to back off. You need to raise more money.”

The supervisors granted the most money to youth activities and historical societies, reasoning these groups were already doing as much fund raising as they could.

The supervisors cut requests from larger organizations, such as Friends of the Inyo and MLTPA, reasoning these groups had a greater ability to raise outside funds—and their higher dollar amount requests made the most impact to the county budget.

The only group to walk away empty-handed was the Antelope Valley CERT group. Its request of $6,582 was denied, but the county supervisors promised to seek money from the county sheriff’s department to fund the group.

In order for the county to stick to its original $75,000 budget, most groups didn’t receive their requested amount.

But at least they got something.