This year, Lori's committee graded 24 applications, from 1 t0 5, based on answers to these questions: (1) Does it increase county tourism?; (2) Is there a clear budget that leverages other funding?; (3) Does it have an economic or cultural impact on the county?; and (4) Is there a need for the funding requested? All but three applications were approved. Although this committee is a laudable attempt to remove some blatant politics from the process, most of the grants should still be denied or reduced.
County Council Politicizes These Grants
Last week, I published a blog detailing exactly how Council prez Ann McHale is trying her best to squeeze a little more money for Easton's State Theatre. McHale would like to be the next county executive, and realizes that the high rollers and country club types on that nonprofit's board would certainly reward her appreciation of the arts.
McHale is by no means the sole council member who politicizes these grants.
Charles Dertinger angrily demanded to know why only $2,000 was being awarded to agricultural fairs. It made no difference to him that those requests were fully funded - more money should have have been awarded. Why was only $4,000 proposed for the Delaware Shad Tourney? Why not give them the full $8,000 sought? Why no money at all for the Atlas Cement Memorial Museum? Who cares that they found other funding sources? Even the Northampton County Bulldog, Ron Angle, echoed some of Dertinger's concerns.
These politicians are pandering for votes, just as McHale is after campaign contributions. I suppose they can't help it. They don't mind using your money to get what they want.
Why Most Grants Should Be Denied or Reduced
Northampton County currently owns Easton's 1753 Bachmann Publick House. Lafayette College is willing to commit $320,000 to that historic building in a joint venture under which the county would agree to spend $520,000 to revitalize that building over four years. While this idea is being batted back and forth, the county is paying for the upkeep of this building from its general fund.
According to the Hotel Tax Law, the only restriction placed on hotel tax money is that the county use the funds for the "further development of tourism facilities and for community development initiatives, within that county, that enhance regional tourism." Instead of paying $130,000 for the annual maintenance and upkeep of that building from real estate tax revenue, hotel tax should be used. The remaining county "quality of life" grants can be reduced pro rata.
This adds another $130,000 to the till.