The Gillette City Council has agreed to increase the amount of money it allocates for nonprofits and social service agencies in the next fiscal year.

The city’s finance team expects the Optional 1% Sales Tax will bring in about $14.7 million in fiscal year 2020-21. Gillette allocates 5% of those revenues for social service agencies. With the change, that cap will be increased to 6.5% for fiscal year 2020-21.

At the 5% cap, agencies would have received about $742,000, but at 6.5% that increases to $965,250.

For this fiscal year, the 5% cap meant dividing a pool of about $885,000.

The city typically uses a conservative estimate of Optional 1% Sales Tax revenues, so the expected drop in collections because of closed businesses during the pandemic isn't expected to have a big impact on projections.

The estimate is based on the current fiscal year’s average of the six lowest tax collection months. But with concerns over COVID-19, the city instead used its lowest collection over the last four years to arrive at the $14.7 million figure.

Among the organizations that will benefit from the increase is the Council of Community Services. The agency is asking for $80,000 from the city for 2020-21, an increase of $45,000 from the $35,000 it got this year.

"There are going to be people who have not needed these services before that may be needing them in the coming year," said Mikel Scott, Council of Community Services executive director. "People may need resources for food, housing and health care — especially since health care is so tied to employment. And not to mention help finding employment and retraining for new jobs."

County residents will need local agencies more because of the coronavirus pandemic and economic bust from historic drops in the energy industries, she said.

"This is a time for our community to be increasing the funding for these agencies, not decreasing it," Scott said. "I’m grateful to the city for making this decision."

It is the right thing to do because the agencies are helping people now and will need to be able to continue with their work, Councilman Billy Montgomery said.

About a month ago, the City Council directed city officials to draft a resolution to increase the cap. 

"(Normally), I don’t like to do that because it’s a good way to keep a cap on our spending," Mayor Louise Carter-King said at the time. "But in this case when social agencies are the ones being hit the most and need the most help at this time, I would be in favor of raising the cap to 6.5% for this fiscal year, then we can discuss it again next year.”

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