City Council Raises Questions On Funded Agencies

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 - by Joseph Dycus

The Chattanooga City Council had questions about what metric is being used to measure the success of government funded agencies and organizations during Tuesday’s budget education session. Each year, various agencies and organizations come before the government and request funding for various reasons. Councilman Russell Gilbert pondered why the council should grant funding to an agency, if all that entity is going to do with it is give themselves raises.

“To me, for us to give money to an agency and for them to give raises to their employees while we can’t do the same for ours, I don’t really care for that,” said Councilman Gilbert. “I’d rather give it to people who will use it for other things and not give raises to their own people.”

Councilwoman Carol Berz opined “If they have enough money to give raises to their employees, perhaps our money can be used somewhere else.”

Maura Sullivan, who assisted in giving the presentation, told the council most agencies ask for funding for a specific project. She said this could be material or other items that will be used for an express purpose.

The conversation then shifted to how “success” is measured by the council when it comes to how that money is spent. Vice Chairman Ken Smith said he wanted to make sure the funding is being used to provide resources the community needs.

For me, it’s more of an example of how we are using our funding. I want to ensure that our funding is being used to provide resources that are necessary for our community, not necessarily positions within an organization. He highlighted a small organization that empowers the local art community as an example.

“They issue small grants to local artists to perform and things like that. They help circulate and generate that creativity that city government does not do, and that’s great. But what I want to make sure that the money that is being given to organizations like that is being directly disseminated directly out into the community to help those individuals or help those organizations grow. Not to add staff members to manage more programs.”

Chairman Chip Henderson simply asked if there is a way to measure what kind of difference the programs made in the community using the funding they receive. Tim Moreland, the director of performance management and open data, said that the only results for such an intangible question may result in simple and unsatisfactory statistics.

“We could send out a supplemental survey to the agencies to ask them what they see as their impact associated with the offers they’re putting together,” said Mr. Moreland. “We’d have to be specific, because you may get what we get back now, which are outputs.”

While Chairman Henderson did say that while financial impact is a valuable metric, he said not everything is going to have a “return on investment.” And so he wondered if there is a way for the city to measure if a program is using its funding to improve a person’s “quality of life.”

Demetrus Coonrod closed out the discussion by asking about the practicality of many programs the city decides to fund. She said several essential programs are being neglected or are being given bare-bones funding.

“From where I sit at, I see the city implementing a lot of programs that aren’t working,” said Councilwoman Coonrod. “Yet we still keep implementing them. Housing, transitional housing, ex-offender training: the minimal amount is being funded toward those organizations.”


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