Teton County nonprofits can now apply for grants to provide recreation programs, but they may not receive as much money as they are used to.
The Teton County Recreation District grant application period is open, after the school board approved changes to the application at its Feb. 5 meeting. The Teton County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees oversees the Recreation District.
Alterations to the grant requirements were meant to allay some trustees’ concerns.
One such concern was that organizations applying for grants were not all providing recreational programs. To solve that the school board approved a new definition of recreation to be included in the application.
“With ‘recreation’ being defined as any activity, voluntarily engaged in, which contributes to the physical, mental, or personal development of an individual or group participating therein,” the application reads, “and includes activities in the field of visual and performing arts, crafts, science, literature, nature study, aquatic sport, and athletics and which may be accessed equally and without discrimination by all TCSD#1 students or by the Jackson Hole community at large.”
Another concern was a tendency for some organizations to delay turning in necessary documents.
“The board was frustrated that people were not filling reports in a timely manner,” Assistant Superintendent of Operations Jeff Daugherty told the school board. “In the past there was already language on the annual report, but there was no penalty.”
The new process also requires organizations to submit reports on previous grants from the Recreation District before a new application will be considered.
The other big change nonprofits will see is that the school board reduced the maximum annual award from $7,500 to $5,000.
Trimming the award is the school board’s response to a looming set of projects that carry high price tags. The most immediate is the replacement of the two synthetic soccer turf fields and the football field, though the board indicated at its latest meeting that replacement was unlikely this year.
Trustee Bill Scarlett said the turf field replacement could cost as much as $1.5 million for all three fields. In light of that need — and a $25.5 million field house the district would like to build — trustees wanted to retain as much money as possible.
“There are a lot of school district projects looming, first and foremost,” Daugherty said.
Reducing the grant isn’t the only change on the horizon for the Recreation District, with at least one trustee questioning the legitimacy of the grant process itself.
“I’m still concerned about the legality of giving taxpayer dollars to community organizations,” Trustee Janine Teske said at the meeting.
School district attorney Sara Van Genderen told Teske that the way the funds are allocated is legal because under the auspices of the school board the Recreation District is charged with “administering a system of recreation.” That mandate doesn’t specify that the Recreation District needs to give money solely to the school district to do so.
Trustees were open to directing more money to the school district for projects, but they didn’t settle on any massive changes to the Recreation District structure.
Instead, they approved a series of potential changes to the bylaws, which the Recreation District will bring back to the school board for final approval.
Applications are due March 16.