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County Council, July 8

More applications for Grants
CARTA Budget, and Accommodation Tax allocations
Warwick Jones

It was a reasonably long agenda before the Finance and other Committees yesterday afternoon. The Finance Committee and the full Council meet only once a month over the summer and it was four weeks since the last Finance Committee meeting.

As is common in recent months, the Committee approved applications for Federal grants, most related to the American Recovery and Restoration Program. The largest amount was $736,095 under the 2010 Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Recovery Program. It will be used to fund the hiring of five Deputy Sheriffs for 3 years. The County, if its application is accepted, will be obliged to maintain the positions for a year after the grant expires which in effect is a match of about $250,000 in fiscal 2014.

Members were initially ambivalent about the request because the documentation provided by staff indicated a match of near $750,000. They were uncertain about making such a large commitment in these uncertain times. But Council member Rawl drew attention to the discrepancy in the figures and wondered how the commitment was so high. Staff conceded a mistake and the commitment was only a third of that stated. Most Council members were then happy to proceed.

The other large grant was for $125,000 under the 2009 Port Security Program. The funds will be used to buy computers and other equipment. The Sheriffs Office will provide a $31,250 match.

“This funding will enable the Sheriff’s Office to obtain mobile computer devices and air cards necessary to expedite field reporting and facilitate information and intelligence sharing with local, state and federal law enforcement and the new SLED Regional Fusion Center located as the USCG’s Charleston Interagency Operations Center (Seahawk)”.

Little change in CARTA budget
CARTA submitted its 2011 budget and after some discussion, it was unanimously approved by the Committee. Mr. Howard Chapman, Executive Director, gave a brief summary and noted that the operations budget was little different from the previous year, at least in total. There was a large drop in the contribution from the half-cent sales tax allocation but this had been more than made up by Federal Grants. Press Download file for Operations budget, Press Download file for Capital budget, and press Download file for Debt Service budget.

Mr. Chapman also reported that rider ship this year was running about 7% higher than the same period last year. He also said that CARTA had taken delivery of 11 new buses and was in the process of commissioning them.

Too many applicants and not enough funds
Reflecting the toughness of the times and the County retaining a greater share of the proceeds, the amount available of Accommodation Tax proceeds for allocation to outside agencies for fiscal 2011 was historically low. At $162,500, it was less than half the level of a few years ago though only marginally lower than that for 2010.

There were 31 applications but only 24 allocations. All successful applicants received substantially less than that requested. The biggest recipients were Patriot’s Point Development Authority, $17,645, The Aquarium, $17,468, and Spoleto Festival, $14,007.

Prior to last year, the allocation of the Accommodation Tax often generated heat amongst Council members. In 2008, and to take the politics out of the decision making, Council asked the College of Charleston and the Convention and Visitors Bureau to devise a weighting process and to recommend allocations on the basis of assessed merit and benefits.

The Finance Committee did not discuss the allocations last night and unanimously approved the recommendations. Press Download file to see allocations.

We wonder whether the Finance Committee was right in making so many allocations. Would it not be better to give larger amounts to a smaller number of applicants? We note the scoring drops off sharply beyond the 3 top applicants (See second column from the right of the Attachment). Their applications were scored 100%, 99% and 79%. The fourth successful application scored 59% and the twenty fourth 20%.

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