Solana Beach City Council increases budget for Community Grant Program

By Kristina Houck

Solana Beach will be able to further support local organizations, following the City Council’s decision June 25 to increase the budget for the annual Community Grant Program.

In a 5-0 vote, council members opted to give an additional $10,000 in grants each year, increasing the program’s annual budget from $15,000 to $25,000. The unanimous decision took place when the council adopted a revised budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

“We have a great number of people in need in the community,” said Councilman Peter Zahn, who recommended the increase during the May 20 budget workshop. “We’ve had tremendous participation by people who want to get involved and help in the community. We have a good number of applications that do come in … and we’re not able to come close to fulfilling all of them. There’s good work to be done.”

Established in 2004, the city’s Community Grant Program provides funds to nonprofit, non-governmental groups that serve Solana Beach and its residents.

Coast Waste Management and EDCO Waste and Recycling Services, the city’s two waste haulers, each contribute $5,000 to the program. The city provides an additional $5,000, bringing the total available funds to $15,000.

Initially, the city budgeted $25,000 for the program but reduced its contribution during the downturn in the economy, City Manager David Ott explained. The council’s vote brings the budget for the program back to where it was prior to the recession.

Last year, 13 organizations requested $55,500 in assistance. In December, council members, awarded a total of $15,000 in grants to the Community Resource Center, the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito, the St. James and St. Leo Medical and Dental Program, Del Sol Lions, Kids Korps USA, Casa De Amistad, La Colonia de Eden Gardens and BikeWalkSolana. Santa Fe Christian Schools matched the city’s funds, providing an additional $15,000 in grants.

“I’m supportive of taking it back to the previous funding,” said Councilman Mike Nichols. “We cut it back when we didn’t have the money, and now we have the money. We’re in a surplus.”

In addition to increasing the budget for the city’s Community Grant Program, the council also contracted with Partnerships with Industry, a nonprofit organization that provides job training for people with disabilities.

Founded in 1985, Partnerships with Industry serves more than 1,000 people each year, working with businesses such as Qualcomm, Home Depot and the San Diego Zoo. The organization also partners with the cities of Coronado, Imperial Beach and Vista.

PWI board member and Solana Beach resident Ted Finkel reached out to Solana Beach last year, suggesting a partnership with the city.

Now included in the budget, the $28,000 contract with PWI enables three people to work for the city for six hours a day, four days a week, Ott explained. They will receive direction from the public works director, likely helping clean up parks, beaches and public right of ways, as well as assisting with landscape and janitorial duties.

“Other cities using the same services find these employees are extremely loyal,” Ott said. “They truly enjoy having a job where they can come and really make things better. I really think they’ll be an asset to our organization.”