As Telluride Town Council wends its way through its annual budget process, various entities funded by the town make budget requests before council. At yesterday’s council work session, the Commission for Community Assistance, Arts and Special Events made its request for about 13 percent more in funding over last year. (Screenshot by Suzanne Cheavens/Telluride Daily Planet)

Yellowing aspen leaves and crisp, autumn nights mean not only summer’s denouement, but, for Telluride Town Council, the seasonal shift signals the start of work crafting next year’s budget. On Tuesday, council heard from town parks and recreation department director Stephanie Jaquet, who presented the Commission for Community Assistance, Arts and Special Events’ (CCAASE) annual budget request. Jaquet is the town staff liaison for the commission.

This year’s request, Jaquet noted, will be the first time in two years CCAASE has asked for an increase in the amount of money the board disperses to area arts and community assistance nonprofits. The allocations are determined following submission of a grant application from those organizations and a months-long discussion of those applications before CCAASE divvies up the money in January.

CCAASE members, citing a number of contributing factors, asked for $253,000 for the arts and special events, an increase of 10 percent, and $358,500, a figure that is up 15 percent from last’s year’s request. One stated reason behind the increased request is the increase in the cost of doing business, which includes an increase in employee compensation and other costs such as rent and supplies.

Additionally, according to Jaquet’s memo from CCAASE, “Nonprofits are the glue that is keeping our community together. As Telluride grows and changes, it is important to keep the core community thriving and our nonprofit organizations are an essential part of this. Now more than ever we need our community support organizations to offer the services the community needs.”

The commission also avers that the increased population of tourists and full-time residents means that, “nonprofits contribute a huge amount to alleviating the burden of support, entertainment, infrastructure, and services.”

Also, CCAASE observed, the community’s volunteer pool is greatly reduced as workers cannot spend as much time volunteering in order to afford to continue living in Telluride, a factor that has meant that positions once filled by volunteers, often morph into paid positions.

Since the CCAASE grant process is in its earliest stages, Jaquet said it was impossible to say just what would be requested from the numerous nonprofits that seek support from the town through CCAASE.

“It’s always a little awkward to talk about budget for grants when we don't know what the grant requests are, but we are actively in our grant process and applications have been released and the deadline is Sept. 27,” Jaquet explained to council. “So I can't tell you what's being requested until after that deadline, but I can tell you last year we did see 16 applicants in the arts and special events, which was one more than 2020 and the total request totals about $295,000, which was just shy of a 6 percent increase in terms of total grant request amount compared to 2020.”

Organizations requesting support from within the community assistance nonprofit sector went down in 2021 from the previous year, but Jaquet said that trend was not anticipated to continue.

“Things do fluctuate from year to year, and once again we can't anticipate what 2022 holds at this point,” she said.

She also recapped the granting process that CCAASE follows.

“The deadline is Sept. 27,” she said. “CCAASE will spend October, November and December reviewing the grant applications. They'll make a recommendation to Town Council at their meeting on Jan. 5 and then Town Council will consider the recommendations at a meeting in January 2022.”

Mayor DeLanie Young sits on CCAASE as council’s representative. She explained the increased request.

“It seems like a big jump but as Stephanie said, for two years, there was no request for increase,” Young said. “And this past year-and-a-half-plus has been really hard on our local nonprofits, and we've pivoted, I think as a board, when we could. We pivoted basically at every chance we had to help these nonprofits get through this time.”

Council member Adrienne Christy voiced her support for the increased request.

“I'm definitely in favor of the increase,” Christy said. “I really think the statement (that) nonprofits are the glue that is keeping this community together rings pretty true to me in my observation of the work that our nonprofits are doing. … I think the more we can support them and provide consistent funding, the better I think it is. It's important for us as a town to spend money on the people who live here and this is an excellent way of doing that.”

Members of CCAASE also expressed gratitude to the town for the support to the area’s many nonprofits that benefit from the grant money awarded.

“We are grateful that CCAASE is funded with Town of Telluride tax dollars and we use these dollars to both grow and sustain sales tax revenue through the festivals, artisans and special events but, more importantly, to serve our community — from at-risk youth programs to mental health services,” Jaquet’s memo concluded. “Allocating tax dollars to CCAASE is a wise, long-term investment in Telluride's vibrant economy and its healthy community. CCAASE believes that an increase in funds would allow CCAASE to increase their impact on community needs, keeping in mind that much of CCAASE funding is stimulus for our local economic and cultural growth.” 

In the morning work session, council made no decisions on the request from CCAASE, but will take up the matter again as budget talks wend their way forward.