County looks to add line item funding for Headwaters Trails Alliance back into 2019 budget | SkyHiNews.com

County looks to add line item funding for Headwaters Trails Alliance back into 2019 budget

Headwaters Trails Alliance Executive Director Meara McQuain descends Rogers Pass with the Mary Jane in the distance on July 2.

Grand County's Commissioners have reversed their decision to remove direct funding for the Headwaters Trails Alliance from their general fund budget for 2019.

The decision to add direct, line item, funding for the trail alliance back into the budget for the coming year came at the end of a budget rebuttal hearing the commissioners held Monday morning in Hot Sulphur Springs. The commissioners did not determine an exact funding amount they wanted to see included in the 2019 budget for Headwaters Trails Alliance though a figure as high as $75,000 was discussed with Commissioner Kris Manguso saying she supported budgeting that amount.

The commissioners declined to instruct county staff to add in a specific line item funding figure for the alliance in 2019. Instead the commissioners said they wanted to find out the exact amount of funding other communities and entities would provide for Headwaters next year and then determine the county's funding amount based on the total figure.

The county had previously included a $40,000 line item in their proposed budget for 2019, which would help cover administrative costs for the trails organization. The commissioners instructed staff to remove that funding stream during budget hearings in early October. The commissioners explained that decision by pointing to the administrative funding available to Headwaters through grant applications for Open Lands, Rivers and Trails funds, also referred to as 1A funds.

Commissioners Kris Manguso and Merrit Linke both supported the inclusion of direct line item funding for Headwaters Trails Alliance in the 2019 budget while Commissioner Rich Cimino opposed the measure.

"This is a very contentious issue," Linke said. "I can argue both sides of it and I am not even a lawyer. I propose we put money back into the budget as a line item for 2019 and we start working on other ways to fund this that are more sustainable."

In explaining his position Linke noted that Headwaters Trails Alliance was previously denied a grant application for $75,000 for administrative costs through the 1A grant application process. Linke further noted that Headwaters "did not build anything into their other money requests."

"I think they (Headwaters Trails Alliance) are a huge source of economic development," Manguso said. "I am in favor of funding the full $75,000 for 2019 and putting it under economic development."

For his part Commissioner Cimino opposed direct line item funding for Headwaters Trails Alliance on largely philosophical grounds.

"I want to go on record that I am opposed to that," Cimino said. "I am opposed to continuing using any more general fund dollars when the voters spoke out and said we want to cough up, for 10 years, .3 percent sales tax. For us to continue taking from the general fund, I am opposed to that. I am trying to seek a solution for that and all nonprofits. We have created a monster. We need to stop funding nonprofits haphazardly."

During the budget rebuttal hearing Cimino added that he would support the establishment of a county trails department within the county's Road and Bridge Department.

"I support this being a department in Road and Bridge," Cimino said. "I support that 100 percent."

Cimino additionally offered figures on the total funding Headwaters has received from the county over the last five years. According to data provided by the county that figured total $46,500 in 2014, $48,000 in 2015, $30,000 in 2016, $31,500 in 2017 and $237,671 in 2018 for a total of $393,671 in county provided funding between 2014 and 2018. The significant jump in funding in 2018 was due to a funding increase of $133,050 the trails alliance received in grant funding from 1A funds.

Several other options were suggested to address future funding needs for the trails alliance. Cray Healy, board treasurer for the Colorado Headwaters Land Trust, suggested the county take the issue back to the voters in a future ballot question. Healy posited a future ballot measure, that could be included in the 2020 election cycle, that would ask citizens about establishing a dedicated funding stream for trails and trail projects. While no formal decision was made regarding Healy's suggestion Commissioner Linke expressed his support for the option.

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