As the city of Midland prepares to finalize the budget for its next
fiscal year, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is concerned about what could
happen if the funding it receives from the city disappears.
The chamber could lose all of its city funding, $60,000, based on a recommendation from a city committee. According to District 4 Councilman Michael Trost, the recommendation was made because the chamber may have been using the funds to pay for employee salaries.
City Manager Courtney Sharp elaborated further, saying that the citizen committee lacked confidence that the chamber was using its city funding appropriately and found the financial reporting by the chamber questionable. In lieu of the recommendation, the City Council will have the final decision as to whether or not the chamber will receive $60,000 again.
Rachel Stone, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, disagreed with the accusation that city money is being used for chamber employee salaries. She said $60,000 isn't enough for the salaries of the two chamber employees.
The salary funding accusation is just one of several conflicting reasons Stone has heard from city staff and council members pertaining funding cut. Other reasons she has heard include lack of diverse revenue streams and history of debt, she said.
"I don't know what's going on," Stone said. "And I can't get a straight answer."
Although the city funds account for about 20 percent of the total $300,000 the chamber has in its budget, chamber officials said the city funding is being used to fund an "incubator" program for startup businesses. And if funding goes away, the incubator program does as well.
Renee Rivera, the incoming chair for the chamber, said the incubator program gives small businesses office space and networking opportunities in exchange for utility payments. She said the program assists startups for one to five years until they are ready to move into their own office space.
"All of us are getting frustrated," Rivera said. "The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce does so much for the community and small businesses, but the city is unclear and we get the run-around."
Stone will have an opportunity to persuade the council next month when the two public meetings on the city's budget will be held on Aug. 6 and Aug. 13. Trost said Stone will have to plead her case and demonstrate the incubator program's progress.
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