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Who Benefits From Supervisor Grants?

Evening Edition

Aired 6/23/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

County Supervisors Propose Doubling Neighborhood Reinvestment Grants

GUESTS:

Dave Roberts, San Diego County Supervisor

Sean Keraffin, San Diego County Taxpayers Association

Aired 6/23/14 on KPBS News.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve Tuesday doubling the size of a special fund that all five members can use for projects without going through the traditional budget process.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve Tuesday doubling the size of a special fund that all five members can use for projects without going through the traditional budget process.

The fund is called the Neighborhood Reinvestment Program, and the supervisors all favor bumping it up from $5 million to $10 million, according to an inewsource tally of the board this month. If the increase is approved, each supervisor will have $2 million in what essentially are discretionary funds to distribute to nonprofits, cities and even county departments. Final grants must be approved by the full board.

MORE: Search through the inewsource database of grants since 1998.

Critics have charged in the past that the program is a publicly funded “slush fund” for supervisors’ pet projects that can be used to help win them favor with constituents and get them re-elected. When the program was created in 1998, the supervisors had $1 million apiece to spend. They doubled the money the following year to $2 million each. It was squeezed in half by a tight budget in 2010.

The supervisors say the fund allows them — the ones who know their districts best — to finance projects without having to go through the complex and potentially contentious budget process.

Some rules apply to recipients. The county bans “religious, political campaigning, or purely private purposes or activities.” Grants are also intended for “one-time community, social, environmental, educational, cultural or recreational needs,” but several organizations have received multiple grants, some more than 10 over the past 16 years. Organizations are not banned from receiving grants more than once, but the money cannot go toward a recurring expense.

In 2012, Supervisor Bill Horn was criticized for grants to Pregnancy Resource Center — a “pro-life Christian organization.” Supervisor Ron Roberts and then-Supervisor Pam Slater-Price also were scrutinized for taking international trips courtesy of organizations they supported with money from the program.

During the past 16 years, the supervisors have funded hundreds of organizations and projects with this special money. inewsource examined that spending — thousands of records — to find trends and identify grant recipients.

The records show that 12 recipients got $1 million or more in grants from supervisors since the program began. Among those are three county departments, two capital investments within the county and one county library.

That means half of the top 12 recipients of grants bestowed by the supervisors are the county itself.

Credit: inewsource

Top recipients of Neighborhood Reinvestment Program funds: Capital Outlay Fund; Park & Rec. Dept.; Grossmont Union High School District; San Diego Opera; San Diego County Library; the Old Globe; Bonita-Sunnyside Library and Museum; Capital Project; YMCA - McGrath Family; Dept. Public Works; Pro Kids Golf Academy; Health and Human Services Agency.

MORE: Search through the inewsource database. Let us know what you find most notable.

Supervisor Comparisons

If you and your nonprofit or county department are thinking of applying for one of the grants, here’s some advice: Your best chances of getting money appear to be with Supervisors Dave Roberts and Ron Roberts, who each year award an average of 62 and 59 grants, respectively. Dave Roberts’ grants have a median value of $20,000, and Ron Roberts’ grants have a median of $10,000.

If you’re looking for a big-ticket grant, you might want to ask Supervisor Dianne Jacob. She gives an average of 18 grants annually, with the median grant being almost $35,000.

The supervisors also differ widely on the causes they champion, with some exceptions. They all give money to the Boys & Girls clubs in their districts. Former Supervisor Pam Slater-Price was particularly generous over the years to the Boys & Girls Club of San Dieguito, giving the organization more than $600,000. Jacob also gave the Boys & Girls clubs of Ramona and East County more than $460,000 each.

Credit: inewsource

Total grants to Boys & Girls clubs: $630,092 (Greg Cox - District 1), $937,234 (Dianne Jacob -District 2), $851,744 (Dave Roberts/Pam Slater-Price - District 3), $1,172,862 (Ron Roberts - District 4) and $1,147,123 (Bill Horn - District 5).

With the exception of Roberts, who succeeded Slater-Price in 2012 when she didn’t seek re-election, all of the supervisors have awarded grants to YMCAs. Jacob was a big supporter of the McGrath Family YMCA. She gave $1.64 million to that branch — nearly half of the total $3.79 million she has given to YMCAs over the years.

Credit: inewsource

Total grants to YMCAs by district: $517,500 (Greg Cox - District 1), $3,790,726 (Dianne Jacob - District 2), $361,000 (Pam Slater-Price - District 3), $942,175 (Ron Roberts - District 4) and $157,000 (Bill Horn - District 5).

Go to the next page or click on links below to find detailed information on each supervisor’s spending. See what their priorities are and if their fund decisions change during election years.

District 1, Greg Cox

San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox at the 2014 State of the County Address

Supports the fund increase?

“We’re in a good budget year and can afford to restore many programs, including this one, back to funding levels cut during the recession.”

-- Supervisor Greg Cox

Supervisor Greg Cox has given to almost 400 different organizations and agencies over the past 16 years. He funds groups as diverse as Adaptive Equestrian Riding for Therapy and the Women’s History Reclamation Project Inc. One priority of his is clear: parks.

Cox has given the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation more than $2.5 million, about 10 percent of his total spending. The most recent grant was $277,000 for fiscal 2014. Four individual parks have also received more than $500,000 each from Cox since 1998.

Most proud of:

"I'm proud of all the neighborhood projects and all the nonprofit and public efforts to build strong, sustainable communities in the district I represent. I'm proud to provide grants to improve parks and trails, to purchase dental equipment for clinics treating children, to repair gyms at youth recreation clubs and to expand libraries."

— Supervisor Greg Cox

Cox took a particular interest in the Bonita-Sunnyside Library and Museum. From 1998 to 2004, Cox gave the project $2 million.

Credit: inewsource

Top 10 receiving organizations from Greg Cox: Park & Rec. Dept. Capital Outlay Fund; Bonita-Sunnyside Library and Museum; San Diego County Library; Capital Project; Otay Lakes Regional Park; Sweetwater Regional Park; City if Chula Vista; Tijuana River Valley park; and Dept. of Planning and Land use.

Cox has given several organizations grants more than once. I Love A Clean San Diego, for example, was on his list 10 of the past 16 years. These organizations, however, have not necessarily received the most money overall.

Credit: inewsource

Most frequent grant recipients from Greg Cox: Park & Rec. Dept., I Love A Clean San Diego, Chula Vista Veterans Home Support Foundation; Point Loma Association; and Public Works Dept.

Cox often increases the number of organizations and departments he supports during election cycles, but the increase is not dramatic.

Credit: inewsource

This chart shows the number of organizations receiving grants from County Supervisor Greg Cox, 1998 - 2014.

District 2, Dianne Jacob

San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Dianne Jacob delivers 2014 State of the County Address

Supports the fund increase?

“The County’s Neighborhood Reinvestment Program has provided a means to make lasting improvements in communities and enhance the quality of life for residents. I called for scaling back the program’s funding during challenging fiscal times and, with stable growth in the County’s budget, I support restoring the funding next fiscal year.”

— Dianne Jacob

Dianne Jacob has given to about 200 different organizations during the past 16 years, particularly to parks, trails and athletic facilities. Her contributions to YMCAs standout among her colleagues: She has given four times more than the next closest supervisor. A half dozen YMCAs have benefited from her grants totaling $3.8 million. Jacob has also been generous to the Grossmont Union High School District with multiple grants amounting to $3.1 million.

Credit: inewsource

Top 10 receiving organizations from Dianne Jacob: Grossmont Union High School District; Capital Outlay Fund; YMCA - McGrath Family; Park & Rec. Dept., YMCA - Rancho San Diego; San Diego County Library; YMCA - East County; Grossmont Union High School; YMCA - San Diego County, and Ramona Pony Baseball.

Jacob gave 13 grants in fiscal 2014, the fewest of the supervisors. While she gave to some organizations in more than one year, multiple grants don’t always mean the most money. Jacob’s median award over the years is almost $35,000, but the Alpine Woman’s Club, for example, collected less than $21,000 from four grants.

Most proud of:

"I'm proud to say that District 2 Neighborhood Reinvestment Funding has built or improved almost 180 facilities, including the Lakeside baseball park, the County aquatics center in Rancho San Diego, and dozens of baseball and softball fields, soccer fields, football fields, pools and playgrounds."

— Supervisor Dianne Jacob

Credit: inewsource

Most frequent grant recipients from Supervisor Dianne Jacob: Grossmont Union High School District; Park & rec. Dept., Lakeside American Little League Baseball; Capital Outlay Fund; Ramona Pony Baseball; and La Mesa-Spring Valley School District.

Jacob gave to fewer organizations during election years, except for the 2000 cycle.

Credit: inewsource

This chart shows the number of organizations receiving grants from County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, 1998 - 2014.

District 3, Dave Roberts/Pam Slater-Price

Credit: inewsource

District 3 County Supervisors Dave Roberts stands next to his predecessor, Pam Slater-Price.

Supports the fund increase?

“Yes. In addition, I am working on enhancements to make the program even more open and transparent to the public”

-- Supervisor Dave Roberts

Supervisor Dave Roberts, elected in 2012, was the first newcomer to the Board of Supervisors since 1995. That means Supervisor Pam Slater-Price gave the grants in District 3 during most of the program’s history. For fiscal 2014, Roberts gave 80 grants of relatively small amounts, from $10,000 to $35,000. The exception was $155,000 to the San Dieguito River Valley JPA. Over the past 16 years, Slater-Price and Roberts have given grants to almost 500 different organizations.

Most proud of:

"I am especially proud of having provided funding for the outdoor classroom project at San Dieguito Park and improvements at San Diego Botanical Gardens (Quail Gardens) in Encinitas."

— Supervisor Dave Roberts

Slater-Price, a large supporter of the arts, gave the San Diego Opera more than $2.6 million. It was the most frequent recipient of District 3 grants.

Credit: inewsource

Top 10 receiving organizations from Supervisors Dave Roberts and Pam Slater-Price: San Diego Opera, The Old Globe, Capital Outlay Fund, Theatre & Arts Foundation of San Diego/La Jolla Playhouse; North County Animal Shelter; Boys & Girls Club of San Dieguito; San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy; Qual Botanical Gardens; Lux Art Institute; and San Diego Dance Theater.

Slater-Price gave other organizations, such as Spirit of the Fourth Inc., multiple grants, but many of those didn’t make the top 10 in total amount received.

Credit: inewsource

Most frequent grant recipients from Supervisors Dave Roberts and Pam Slater-Price: San Diego Opera, Boys & Girls Club of San Dieguito; Qual Botanical Gardens; North Repertory Theatre; San Diego Dance Theater; Spirit of the Fourth, Inc.; Rancho Costal Humane Society; and Community Resource Center.

Slater-Price did not appear to change her giving priorities during election years. There was a steady increase in the number of organizations she funded from 1998 until her last few years in office, when the numbers declined.

Credit: inewsource

This chart shows the number of organizations receiving grants from County Supervisor Dave Roberts and Pam Slater-Price, 1998 - 2014.

District 4, Ron Roberts

San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts at 2014 State of the County Address

Supervisor Ron Roberts has supported almost 450 different organizations with Neighborhood Reinvestment Program grants during the past 16 years. He says Boys & Girls Clubs had a big impact on his life at an early age, and he’s supported several of the clubs with a total of $1.2 million.

Most proud of:

"I've always had a soft spot for the Boys & Girls Clubs because of how meaningful the organization and its people were to me as a child. others that I am especially proud of to support include San Pasqual Academy for foster youth, which gives opportunity to struggling young people who were sometimes horribly deprives: the Pro Kids Golf program that primarily provides disadvantaged youth in City Heights with lessons on studying, life and golf; Serving Seniors which is an absolutely star in this expanding population; and mama's Kitchen, which came along at a time when we were far less civilized in our dealings with those with HIV/AIDS and which today continues to help those who are ill and injured and may otherwise be out of sight."

— Supervisor Ron Roberts

Top recipients of Roberts’ grants are organizations focused on physical activity, such as the George E. Barnes Youth Tennis Center and the Hickman Youth Athletic Association.

Credit: inewsource

Top 10 receiving organizations from Supervisor Ron Roberts: Pro Kids Golf Academy, Senior Community Centers of San Diego, San Diego world Trade Center, San Diego Hall of Champions, San Pasqual Academy Foundation; San Diego Police Athletic League; Zoological Society of San Diego; George E. Barnes youth Tennis Center; Family Health Centers of San Diego; and Hickman Youth Athletic Association.

An organization that has received multiple grants from Roberts is Mama’s Kitchen, which he commended for its assistance to individuals with HIV/AIDS when few government and nonprofit services were available to them.

Credit: inewsource

Most frequent grant recipients form Supervisor Ron Roberts: Pro Kids Golf Academy, San Diego Police Athletic League; Senior Community Centers of San Diego; San Diego Hall of Champions; Zoological Society of San Diego; and Mama's Kitchen.

There is no apparent relationship between the number of organizations Roberts gives grants to and election years. In fiscal year 2013-2014, his most recent election cycle, Roberts gave to the fewest organizations since 1998-1999, the program’s first year.

Credit: inewsource

This chart shows the number of organizations receiving grants from County Supervisor Ron Roberts, 1998 - 2014.

District 5 , Bill Horn

San Diego County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Bill Horn at 2014 State of the County Address

Supervisor Bill Horn has awarded grants to nearly 350 different organizations. There is no clear priority in his grant giving, although Horn has favored volunteer fire departments and fire protection districts in the unincorporated areas of his district. Six of the top 10 largest recipients of Horn’s Neighborhood Reinvestment Program grants are county departments and funds, including the top two.

Most proud of:

"I think all of the programs, projects and organizations I've funded are important."

— Supervisor Bill Horn

Horn also has helped finance several libraries in his district, most notably the Fallbrook Library. In addition to the almost $1 million to Friends of the Fallbrook Library, Horn gave the library itself $342,000 over three grants.

Credit: inewsource

Top 10 receiving organizations from Bill Horn: Capital Outlay Fund; Health and Human Services Agency; Friends of the Fallbrook Library; Public Works Dept.; Park & Rec. Dept.; HHSA - Major Maintenance Account; Capital Project; The Old Globe; Palomar Mountain Volunteer Department; and Mainly Mozart.

Boys & Girls Clubs are repeat grant recipients. Five of the top six most frequent recipients are clubs; four have received grants in 10 of the past 16 years.

Credit: inewsource

Most frequent grant recipients from Supervisor Bill Horn: Boys & Girls Club of Oceanside; Boys & Girls Club of of Vista; Boys & Girls Club of Carlsbad; Boys & Girls Club of North County; Fallbrook Village Association; and Boys & Girls Club of San Marcos.

Horn generally has increased the number of grants during election periods, with a couple of exceptions. The number of grants awarded during fiscal years 2005-2006 and 2007-2008, were the highest for Horn during the past 16 years.

Credit: inewsource

This chart shows the number of organizations receiving grants from County Supervisor Bill Horn, 1998 - 2014.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | June 23, 2014 at 7:07 a.m. ― 5 months ago

payback

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Eddie89'

Eddie89 | June 23, 2014 at 8:42 a.m. ― 5 months ago

A "slush fund" used by elected officials "without going through the traditional budget process." and they want to double it from $5 million to $10 million!?

This is insane!

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | June 23, 2014 at 2:10 p.m. ― 5 months ago

Eddie89

more like a slurpee fund, sticky and sweet, and on one wants to get caught with it on their fingers

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | June 23, 2014 at 2:11 p.m. ― 5 months ago

I will admit there are a lot of great/important cultural institutions that benefit from this money, such as the Old Globe, The Opera - and I see Mama's Kitchen has applied, I hope Mr. Roberts has chosen to fund them robustly because they are an iconic, very important humanitarian organization in our city.

With all this said, however, there has to be a better process than simply leaving this purely up to the discretion of these individuals on how to personally spend millions and millions of dollars.

Arts funding and especially social services funding should be a set guarantee so these important service providers and institutions can establish long-term budgets and goals. It shouldn't be some yearly kiss the ring of your local Supervisor and hope they dole out some funds to you.

There should be a more collaborative process for this.

I'd like to know how a kids pro-golf academy warrants nearly 1.5 million dollars when we have social services in town sorely lacking!?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'rhorton'

rhorton | June 25, 2014 at 5:35 a.m. ― 5 months ago

This money is a slush fund. Supervisors use the money to ensure their re-election.

( | suggest removal )