Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

St. Petersburg looks to standardize the way it gives money to community groups, events

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration is working to standardize the way the city doles out more than $1.5 million to festivals, parades, races, museums and other groups each year.

Kriseman and City Council members have grappled with a long line of requests from arts organizations, unions and nonprofits seeking various kinds of financial help.

Council member Amy Foster said she would like to see a clearly defined process created so that groups across the city know how to access available cash. She said she doesn't know how to explain to constituents how the system works.

"I think that what is important is that we're not just funding pet projects," Foster said.

Cities around the country sponsor parades and make investments in worthwhile projects that need municipal support, said Kriseman spokesman Ben Kirby.

But the current system is "ad hoc," said City Administrator Gary Cornwell. His staff compiled a list of 19 current recipients of $1,553,000 in nondepartmental funding ranging from $12,000 given to the Museum of History for its property insurance to $275,000 dedicated to summer youth interns.

The requests for funding should be uniform, Kirby said. The administration also wants to avoid a repeat of surprises like the $25,000 former Mayor Bill Foster promised to the Blue Ocean Film Festival, he said.

"It's something we want to improve," Kirby said.

The process won't include "in-kind" contributions of police protection, trash collection and other city services offered to some events like St. Pete Pride. Also, any expenditure under $100,000 doesn't need council approval. Twelve of the 19 currently funded nondepartmental projects are under that threshold.

The council will likely discuss the issue further today. Member Charlie Gerdes is asking the city to put the Police Athletic League of St. Petersburg Inc. building at 1450 16th St. N into the city's property insurance pool, which would save the nonprofit about $30,000 a year in insurance premiums.

While not a strict use of nondepartmental funds, Gerdes said the aid might help the city avoid giving the nonprofit more direct financial help in the future.

The PAL would save money and use it to serve more children, Gerdes said.

"That means we don't have to subsidize them in other ways," Gerdes said. "But I'm in favor of a uniform approach."

Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.

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