Not an easy task

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The one-percent Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) that is paying for the Plymouth County Law Enforcement Center has also provided every community in the county, as well as the unincorporated areas of the county, funds to be used for other projects. Each community makes their own determination as to how the funds will be used.

The City of Le Mars decided a few years ago to use their LOST monies to fund Community Betterment Projects so construction could proceed while pledges were being honored. This decision limited sources of revenue for non-profit and community based projects.

The primary sources of funds for such projects now are the Hotel/Motel Sales Tax (used nearly exclusively for bringing people to Le Mars), the Community Foundation of Greater Plymouth County and Plymouth County's share of LOST which represents the unincorporated area's share.

The deadline for applications for the $180,000 that is available to be awarded for projects was last Friday. A total of 21 groups applied for funding, with their requests totalling $431,261 -- over twice the amount that is available to grant.

In the past, applicants were given priority based on how their project fit a specific theme depending on the year: "Quality of Life," "Public Safety," "Educational Opportunities" and "Public Health."

Now projects under those four categories will be given equal priority every year. Each project will stand on its own merit. This change will make the decisions of the nine-member advisory board more challenging.

A complete list of the projects seeking funding was published in Monday's Sentinel. Boiling these applications down so an "apples to apples" comparison is impossible. How can you compare a funding request to refrigerate children's vaccines to construction of a veterans memorial? Both are worthy, which should get the money?

That's the rather daunting task facing the advisory board. Since this is the first year under the new system, we don't envy their task one bit. But we are grateful that there are people like these nine individuals who will serve, and wish them well in their deliberations.