On Thursday afternoon the Corvallis Climate Action Advisory Board got down to the business of thinking about how to recommend that the city spend $100,000 on climate action.
The money was a late addition to the fiscal 2019-20 budget, which passed June 17. The motion to add the extra $100K was put forth by Ward 5 Councilor Charlyn Ellis, who also chairs the climate board.
Thursday, Ellis and the board discussed its priorities moving forward, with the budget allocation one of the key elements.
The consideration of the city funding comes during a period of transition for the board, which has two new members, Erich White and Julie Risien, as well as a new staffing infrastructure.
For the board’s first 20 meetings — the group started in February of last year -— project management services were provided by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition under a contract that cost the city approximately $85,000.
Now, the city has assigned economic development officer Jerry Sorte and new casual employee Sarah Spangler to support the board. The staff support totals 0.5 full-time equivalents.
Staff support was one of the goals of climate-action activists when they urged the city to amend the budget.
The council, when it voted 5-3 to accept Ellis’ budget amendment on June 17, made it clear that the $100,000 must go to outcomes, not staff. Now that 0.5 FTE has been added for staff, the board is free to play with the full $100,000.
City Manager Mark Shepard, however, said, “My opinion is that the council should make decisions on use of the funds after hearing a recommendation from the advisory board. If staff has input (in support, or contrary to the board’s recommendation), I think that should be weighed by the council as well before they make their final decision.”
The climate board plans to make the funding recommendation its key agenda item at its August meeting. Possibilities noted Thursday included work on transportation, energy efficiency, leveraging funds from other sources and loan programs.
The board also discussed how to balance the funding recommendation with the group’s other work, including a community survey, working with staff on greenhouse gas inventories, looking for ways to inject climate sustainability into the city’s land-development code and upgrading the project’s website.
Sorte encouraged the group not to bite off more than it could chew. The $100,000 is designed to be spent during the fiscal year that began July 1, but there is no precise deadline for either the board’s recommendation or council action on the funding.