Finance Committee Special Meeting Minutes

 October 5, 2016

Immediately following 9:00 a.m. regular Finance Committee meeting


Topic: Community Development Block Grant uses and other City grant efforts


Location: City Council Chamber, 1st floor, City Hall – St. James Building, 117 West Duval Street


In attendance: Council Members Anna Lopez Brosche (Chair), Greg Anderson, Sam Newby, Bill Gulliford, Matt Schellenberg

Excused: Council Members Aaron Bowman and Katrina Brown


Also: Kirk Sherman and Kyle Billy – Council Auditor’s Office; Paige Johnston – Office of General Counsel; Jeff Clements – Council Research Division; Philip Zamarron – Legislative Services Division; Ali Korman Shelton – Mayor’s Office; Angela Moyer, Damian Cook and John Snyder – Finance Department; Diana Seydlorsky – Housing and Community Development Division


Meeting Convened: 10:00 a.m.


Chairwoman Brosche called the meeting to order and introduced the topics of the day - the Community Development Block Grant program and the City’s other grant seeking processes. Diana Seydlorsky, Chief of the Housing and Community Development Division, explained the process by which the City’s annual allocation of CDBG funds is prioritized and allocated, which includes approximately 10 public forums (6 CPAC meetings plus other public hearings). Ms. Seydlorsky said that her office is going to proactively contact all council members to invite their suggestions for projects and priorities for next year’s allocation, and offered to meet with members individually and ride through their districts to see potential projects and needs first-hand. The Community Development Division works with the other administrative departments to assemble lists of needs and projects, all of which must directly serve the low- and moderate-income persons targeted by the CDBG program. Targeting can be done by Census tract or block, or by evidence (i.e. user surveys) that a facility proposed to be assisted serves low- and moderate-income persons. 


Council Member Gulliford felt that the City Council should play a bigger role in establishing the relative priorities of uses for CDBG funds. Ms. Seylorsky noted that the Council adopts the 5-year CDBG Consolidated Plan that outlines the authorized uses of the funding. She said that the Housing and Community Development Division works with the City’s other grant seeking offices to leverage multiple grants to address particular needs.


Damian Cook, the Grants Administrator in the Finance Department, said that CDBG is the most broadly applicable of the City’s grants with a wide variety of permissible uses, always assuming compliance with the targeted income criteria. He said the grants office seeks all sorts of grants and other potential funding sources that may be of benefit to the City. The office holds quarterly meetings for the personnel of any city department, authority or affiliated agency who deal with grants in order to share ideas and concerns. The office also handles grant-related functions that don’t fall readily into a City department or division’s jurisdiction. His office depends on the operating department experts to identify grant opportunities that pertain to their work and then assists with the production of the grant application. In response to a question he said that the City does not have a central clearinghouse that is aware of and acts as a gatekeeper to authorize every outgoing grant application. Sometimes multiple departments or City-related agencies apply for the same grant, which he said is not always the negative that it might seem at first. His office has tested the use of a software package called Amplifund that acts as a database manager for tracking grants. The City’s new ERP financial management package may have many of the same capabilities for tracking projects and grants. In response to a question from Council Member Schellenberg about whether the City hires contract grant writers, Mr. Cook said that was a possibility on a case-by-case basis where particular expertise and personal connections might be important.


Budget Officer Angela Moyer asked the committee to consider making several modifications to the Ordinance Code to help simplify and streamline the receipt and expenditure of grant funds that may differ from the exact amount approved in the budget or by separate ordinance. She suggested increased the threshold amount of funding changes that require additional Council action and tentatively approving expenditure of provisional grants in the event they are received so that separate appropriation ordinances aren’t needed each time an application is successful. Council Member Gulliford will work with Ms. Moyer to craft proposed amendments for the committee’s consideration. Mr. Cook also advocated for changes to speed up the expenditure process for grants that are received in the middle of or late in a fiscal year that need to be expended before the end of the year. Federal and state grantors sometimes have returned or unused grant funds that they will make available for eligible uses, but only if it can be spent within a relatively short period of time before the end of a fiscal year. He will work with Ms. Moyer to explore possibilities for speeding up the process.


Meeting Adjourned: 10:56 a.m.



Minutes: Jeff Clements, Council Research

            10.5.16   Posted 3:00 p.m.

Tapes:  Finance Special Committee meeting– LSD