Nonprofit groups scheduled to receive city grants saw the amount of those grants slashed by 25 percent Wednesday as the City Council went beyond a list approved by the newly created Grants-in-Aid Advisory Commission.
Instead of 41 grants, the city is now funding 52 organizations. The effort to add more nonprofits was led by Council Chairman Ernie Martin.
“If you follow what has been done, it actually follows the commission's recommendations,” explained Martin. “The Council didn't add any projects that weren't evaluated, and they were added based on the order that the commission evaluated them.”
The GIA Advisory Commission used a scoring system to rate the worthiness of grant proposals. The lowest score of a nonprofit approved by the commission was 77.86, but Martin added one organization, Hiipaka, LLC that received a score of 75.
Community Services Director Pamela Witty-Oakland told Council members the slashing of grant amounts approved by the commission could result in some organizations failing to meet their stated goals.
"Any change to the funding logically implies a change to the outcome,” Witty-Oakland testified. “So, we're saying that we will need to revisit each and every proposal because their proposals are attached to the contract as a form of measuring the deliverables for each organization."
Under recommendations approved by the GIA Advisory Commission, Meals on Wheels Hawaii was scheduled to receive $364,095. But after the 25 percent across the board cut to all recipients, Meals on Wheels will now collect $273,071.
"Our request is to pay kitchen costs in nine of your districts to directly feed constituents in your district, and so therefore we request the original amount," said Claire Shimabukuro, executive director of Meals on Wheels.
However Adult Friends for Youth, which works with former gang members, would have been left out of the grants-in-aid process if not for the change approved by the Council. Instead, the program is now set to receive a grant worth $262,500.
“Investment in public infrastructure is very important, but I’m also a proponent of social infrastructure,” said Martin. “I believe you have to invest in a lot of these services; either you invest now or you’re going to pay later.”
The grants awarded by the Council to the 52 nonprofits totaled $5,136,440, or 0.5 percent of the city’s general fund as spelled out in a charter amendment approved by Honolulu voters last November. Under the process, no council district should receive less than $250,000 worth of grants.
Martin said part of his motivation to amend the grants-in-aid resolution was Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s refusal to release an additional $8.3 million to nonprofits as part of the budget approved by the Council. The mayor believes the funds are needed to help offset a projected budget deficit of $156 million during the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
However, Martin said he may look to increase the amount of funding nonprofits receive during the next budget cycle, stating the amount required under the City Charter is just a starting point.
“That’s the process of government, right?” said Martin. The executive branch has its intentions, but once it’s in the Council’s hands then the Council determines what the priorities for the city should in the following fiscal year.”
The final vote on the amended grants-in-aid resolution was 7-1 after Councilman Ikaika Anderson recused himself after revealing a relative has ties to a nonprofit group that had applied for a city grant. Councilman Breene Harimoto voted against the measure, while colleagues Ron Menor, Kymberly Pine and Stanley Chang all voted in favor with reservations.