A separate city program that funds nonprofit groups’ budget requests for such things as building repairs and renovations is being eliminated as part of the Dunwoody’s proposed 2019 budget. Instead, the city would include the facilities funding in the city’s overall Parks and Recreation Department budget.
The proposal comes after some City Council members have for the past two years raised questions about the Facilities Improvement Partnership Program process. But Mayor Denis Shortal is asking council members to reinstate FIPP when they are expected to vote on the budget in two weeks.
Finance Director Chris Pike explained to the council at its Oct. 8 meeting that funding for building maintenance is being rolled into the city’s approximate $2.8 million proposed parks budget, an increase of nearly $503,000 from last year. The total budget is proposed at right at $25 million.
When the city was founded a decade ago, the council relied on nonprofit groups that were tenants of the facilities once maintained by DeKalb County to give input how much money was needed to maintain their facilities, Pike explained.
Now, though, city staff and administrators understand the needs, he said, and it makes sense for the city to put the money into its operating budget.
The city’s FIP program has for many years set aside up to $250,000 for nonprofit parks and recreation partners to apply for grants.
This year, the city awarded FIPP grants totaling $82,000 to the Dunwoody Nature Center to add an eco-classroom made from recycled shipping containers to the park; and $151,000 to the Dunwoody Preservation Trust to rehabilitate the guest house and expand the parking lot at the Donaldson Bannister Farmhouse.
The FIP process this year included the assistant city manager, accounting manager, the parks department director and the operations manager reviewing grant proposals from nonprofit groups and scoring the requests based on the information provided. Those with the highest scores generally receive FIPP funds.
Pike said that nonprofits are not just renovating but also expanding their services and that was a reason to also roll money into the parks budget.
The Nature Center, for example, is proposing to build a new 7,000 square-foot building where a portion of the parking lot is now located to accommodate continued growth of its programming.
Shortal said he worried putting FIPP funding into the parks budget would create a “political” budget process and open up a “rivalry” between nonprofits.
Councilmember Lynn Deutsch, who cast the lone “no” vote on FIPP funding this year because of concerns over the process, said she believed eliminating the grants program is the right way to go.
Master plans for organizations such as the Nature Center and DPT are included in the city’s master plans and can be vetted as part of the annual budgetary process, she said.
Nonprofit groups can still make budget requests, she said, but facilities that don’t have nonprofit advocates would also be included in the budget process when in the past they may have been overlooked.