|During the August Board Meetings and Budget Workshops, the Board had several discussions regarding special event funding, host venue agreements and service agreements with non-profit entities. The Board discussed development of a policy to address funding requests from non-profit entities and requested a list of all related agreements and their expiration dates. Attached to this memo is a spreadsheet of the existing agreements.
At this time, the Township provides discretionary funding and/or in-kind services to a limited number of partner entities. The Township has agreements with each of these partners that define the funding or services provided by the Township, clearly defines the work to be performed or service to be provided by the partner, outlines the benefit to the Township and the reporting requirements that are required in exchange for the Township’s contribution. The majority of these agreements are either rooted in the history of the Township and its predecessors, or are multi-year commitments that were approved based on the proposed large-scale economic benefit to the community. Annual agreements are subject to funding allocations during the budget process, with the related service agreements reviewed and approved by the Board in October of each year for the following calendar year.
General Service Agreements
The Township has several discretionary service agreements with non-profit entities, such as the Village Associations and the YMCA. These agreements are rooted in the history of the Township’s predecessors and provide direct funding in exchange for specific services and programming. The funding for these groups is approved annually in the budget and is subject to annual approval of a service agreement.
Senior Transportation Service Agreements
The Township has agreements with Interfaith and Senior Rides to provide transportation services to elderly and disabled residents. Senior Rides funding is tied to the UZA/FTA-related services, while the Interfaith service is simply provided to benefit older residents who are transportation-dependent. The funding for these groups is approved annually in the budget and is subject to annual approval of a service agreement.
Strategic Partner Agreements
One of the Township’s purposes, per its Enabling Legislation, is Economic Development, and the Township has agreements with strategic partners, such as The Woodlands Economic Development Partnership, to provide or enhance these economic development efforts in The Woodlands. These agreements provide direct funding in exchange for specific services and programs that benefit The Woodlands community. The funding is approved annually in the budget process and is subject to annual approval of the service agreement.
Host Venue Agreements
The Board has entered into a number of Host Venue Sponsorship agreements. These agreements provide for the use of the Township facilities, equipment and services in exchange for the production of large-scale events that benefit the community, typically by providing economic benefits, such as increased hotel occupancy tax and sales tax revenues. These are multi-year agreements. The Township only provides direct funding for one of the host venue agreements (which is a carryover from the transfer of special events from the Convention and Visitors Bureau to the Township Parks Department in 2016). The remaining agreements only include in-kind services from the Township.
Policies and Procedures
The Township does not currently have a policy or procedures on discretionary funding requests.
In 2016, the Board adjusted its Park Orders to provide for separate commercial and non-profit fees for the Township’s larger park rentals. The non-profit rates were set to assist in making the rentals more affordable, in lieu of granting funds or waiving fees for facility use. These lower fees are available to all verified non-profit organizations.
In addition, the Ad Hoc Economic Development Committee is currently considering a policy and application process for consideration by the full Board related to dispersing Events Admissions Tax funds to outside entities. Based on the current discussion, this process would be subject to annual determination by the Board on whether to offer funding for the upcoming fiscal year. If funding were made available, then a proposed application process would be implemented.
While not directly funded by the Township, Visit The Woodlands has an application and approval process for groups seeking cash sponsorships.
If the Board is interested in a defined policy for allocation and distribution of discretionary funds for non-profit organizations, it would be helpful for the Board consider several questions and set a framework for the policy and process to be developed.
Staff recommends that if a policy is desired and implemented, that any consideration should be given on an annual basis, as part of the budget process. Because the current agreements are diverse, it may also be advisable to create categories or “buckets” for the types of funding or agreements available. A process could be developed to define the funding type and requirements for each bucket, and then the policy could require that any application for funding restrict the request to one bucket of funding.
- What is the Township’s goal in providing discretionary funding?
- Is there a desire to expand on the allocations outside of the historical entities?
- Is there a desire to keep all of the existing partnerships?
- Are additional funding allocations anticipated or would this be a repurposing of the existing funds?
- Would there be a maximum amount available or a maximum amount that an individual entity may receive? Or will this be determined on an annual basis?
- How will the Board handle a request that is outside of the parameters of the policy, but still deemed of benefit to the Township?
- Currently, funding purposes fall into the following general categories Recreation and Community Spirit, Seniors and Transportation, Arts and Culture, and Economic Development. Are these the correct categories for consideration in a policy?
- The types of agreements offered are primarily service agreements (annual and provide direct funding) and host venue agreements (primarily multi-year without direct funding). Are these the correct categories for consideration in a policy?
Because any policy developed would be related to discretionary use of general funds (rather than a reserved use of restricted funds, such as the Events Admissions Tax), staff seeks more specific direction from the Board on creating a framework for a proposed policy.