Town looking to open 2 percent fund application process

Council members Catherine Ballay, left, Diane Binder, center, and Pat Powell discussed making changes to the town’s 2 percent application process. 2017 Whidbey News-Times file photo

The application process for 2 percent funds will be more open and transparent with changes Coupeville Town Council is looking to make.

Council decided last week to make changes to a longstanding process the town uses to distribute its tourism dollars.

Currently, a set group of previously identified Coupeville organizations are allowed to apply for the funds and percentages are generally pre-set.

“I think we should be a little more transparent about it,” said Councilwoman Lisa Bernhardt, who is also the executive director of the Pacific Northwest Art School. “As an applicant who was on the list that was created 20 years ago, I always felt a little uncomfortable that I was one of the chosen few that was just allowed to automatically apply.”

Bernhardt says she applies for funds for the school from the county as well and has served on the county’s advisory board.

“It’s done in an open and competitive process,” she said, and she doesn’t have any problem with changing the way Coupeville distributes its money.

Mayor Molly Hughes presented a few ideas on how to change the process to the council last week and asked for direction.

Some of her ideas included modifying the current list of allowed applicants to open it to more organizations.

“I just want to get away from how we had been doing it,” she said. “It may have been easy but I don’t think it’s the right way to deal with these funds.”

Councilwoman Pat Powell suggested alternating years in which the funds would be open to all, even organizations outside of the town.

“I don’t like the idea of modifying this list because we’re still picking them,” Councilwoman Jackie Henderson said.

Councilwoman Catherine Ballay suggested creating a pre-screening process on the website.

“We haven’t had it open in so long, I don’t think we know what we’re in for,” Hughes said.

Council also agreed they’d prefer not to have specific percent allocations like before and many of the council said they’d prefer to keep the process open only to nonprofit organizations.

If the town can get all its ducks in a row, Hughes said she’d like to have the first open application process this fall for fund distribution in 2018.

Town of Coupeville gives out roughly $27,000 annually in two percent funds.

Hughes said the money isn’t going to make up any significant portion of any organization’s budget.

Council is planning to review plans for the changes during a July 27 workshop.