Funding change for police officer cuts into grant money

The Measure S Citizens Oversight Committee on Monday evening unanimously supported staff recommended 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 Measure S budgets. 

But then, after a brief animated discussion, some members of the committee tried unsuccessfully to overturn the motion and reconsider an aspect of the budgets dealing with grant funding for nonprofits.

Later the committee gave its approval of an amended Measure S 10-year spending plan by a 3-2 vote. Two previous motions by committee member Michael Montelongo to approve the plan or an amended version had failed for lack of a second.

The Measure S budgets and spending plan will now move to the city council for final approval and inclusion in the overall city budget.

The reason for the attempt to overturn the unanimous approval of the budgets and for the amendment to the spending plan was the proposed reduction of Measure S grant money available to nonprofits. 

The amount will drop from the usual of more than $100,000 each year to $50,000 in each year of the budgets and the 10-year spending plan. 

The amendment to the spending plan that was  approved by the 3-2 vote requests that grant money for nonprofits be increased to $75,000 annually. However, the budgets approved earlier by the committee still call for the original $50,000.  

Confusion and frustration seemed to be the theme of the April 15 oversight meeting. 

Committee members at times seemed confused and Jerry Valadez who runs SAM Academy was definitely frustrated about several aspects  of the Measure S grant program.

During the public forum portion of the meeting Valadez expressed concern about the March 5 meeting being cancelled without adequate public notice, the Measure S grant guidelines being revised by city staff without input from the oversight committee, no agenda items about grants on the previous three oversight  meetings and city staff making a decision not to allow grant funding to go to previous grant awardees. 

"That was prejudicial," said Valadez. 

"Grants should be awarded on merit. Proposals should not be singled out based on city staff opinion without input from the oversight committee," said Valadez.

He requested that a committee - that would not include city staff - be created to review grant proposals.

 He accused city staff of having conflicts of interest and bias toward local programs that have proven effective in addressing gang and drug issues. 

Valadez was followed to the podium by 16 speakers who supported SAM Academy receiving more grant funding.

A couple of other speakers, Donna Bailey and Steve Orton, wondered why the city council member assigned to attend oversight meetings was not present. 

Committee members Montelongo and Melissa Griggs were selected to review three grant applications that, if successful, would split the $50,000 or $75,000 which will become available when the city budget receives final approval from the city council. 

Following the parade of public forum supporters of Valadez and SAM Academy, committee chairman Johnny Perez expressed his personal support. "We  realize the importance of SAM Academy," said Perez.  

Earlier when Griggs sought to have the motion approving the budgets overturned to allow more discussion and consideration, Perez began to poll the committee to see if there was a consensus for a do-over. But the motion stood when Montelongo, who made the motion, declined to withdraw it. 

Since Resolution 4361 was approved in 2012, nonprofits like SAM Academy, the Boys & Girls Club of Fresno County, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California and other nonprofits that provide programs designed to keep at risk youths out of gangs and off drugs fell under a gang/drug prevention umbrella and received grant money from Measure S public safety funds.

The reduction in nonprofit grant funding came about said city finance director Gary Watahira because the police department's G.R.E.A.T. officer, who teaches a gang and drug prevention/intervention program in elementary schools in the City of Sanger will now be funded from the Measure S labor fund instead of by Measure S grant money. 

The cost for funding her salary and  benefits, more than $100,000, will be deducted from the amount available to the grant program.  

The reporter can be contacted by email at sangerherald@gmail.com or by phone at the Herald at (559) 875-2511.

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