Commission Minutes

Present: Commissioners - Jonathan Barczyk, Ed Barrett, F. Celeste Branham, Julia Fiori, Matthew L’Italien, Jessica Nixon, Lisa Phelps, John Portela, Luke Shorty, Jenifer Tilton-Flood, Susan Cheesman. 
New appointees (not sworn in yet) - Susan Asselin, Stacie Haines, Zachary Maher, Robert Meinders, Pamela Proulx-Curry, Dale Rowley, Nathaniel Rudy.

Public Comment Period.  No public comments were offered.

Call to Order.  Chair Branham called the meeting to order at 10:02 am.  After Commission member introductions, Chair welcomed the 8 new Commissioners. They are in the process of finding a dedimus justice and being sworn in.  There are 3 reappointments. 

Barrett, Phelps, Tilton-Flood, Maher, and Hawthorne had the correct answers to the quiz.

Announcements and Appreciations.  Chair reported that the virtual Maine Volunteer Leadership Conference was a grand success.  The plenaries were viewed by more than the attendance.  Bryan will provide the links to watch the plenaries to the Commissioners.  Maryalice thanked the Planning and Steering Committee (Cindy Adamsky, Sue Hawthorne, and Jenni Tilton-Flood) for their coordination.

Orientation Overview for New Members.  There will be 3 orientation sessions for new members.  The first session will be November 20 from 9:00-10:00 am. 

Draft Facilitator Notes from Board Retreat – Next Steps.  Please review the notes that were forwarded to you.  We are postponing until December discussion of the next steps.  The Retreat is held annually in order to learn more about the Commission, each other, and to future plans.

Assessment of Successful AmeriCorps Grantees.  The final report will be presented to Research and Evaluation next week. A summary of the findings was distributed to the Commission with materials for this meeting. Grant Selection and Performance Task Force will handle the follow-up.

Additions, Deletions, Changes to the Agenda.  None were requested.  Moved by Portela to approve the agenda.  Second by Tilton-Flood.  Vote on the motion:  In favor – Barczyk, Barrett, Fiori, L’Italien, Nixon, Phelps, Portela, Shorty, and Tilton-Flood.  Opposed – none.  Motion approved.

Consent Agenda.  Included in the Consent Agenda were minutes from the September 24 Commission business meeting, and the Executive Committee meeting of October 6. 

Focus on Mission Responsibilities:

Inspector General Audit.  Chair reported that the audit turned into an evaluation after 29 months. The Commission and its sub grantees Maine Conservation Corps and Learning Works were included.  Chair and Maryalice were involved in the recent meetings on the draft final report.  Maine Conservation Corps had no findings.  There is a minor criticism of the Commission’s monitoring process. The Inspector General is citing problems with Learning Works in-kind documentation from 2017-2018.  The documentation of valuations were not deemed sufficient for classroom space dedicated to the program use and the teachers who were advisors to the AmeriCorps members. The recommendation for repayment includes not just federal funds but the value of in-kind.  Chair and Maryalice are still pursuing changes.  Discussion followed. 

Business Reports:

Grant Selection and Performance.  Barrett reported the committee is looking for more members.  We have grants in the fall and the spring. 

National Public Policy Issues.  Portela discussed on-going budget issues in Congress.  He suggested that the Commissioners reach out to the House and Senate representatives to thank them for their work.  The Commission itself cannot advocate but individual members may communicate about critical issues. 

Communications Task Force.  Tilton-Flood reported that the next meeting will be October 21 by zoom at 4:00 pm and welcomed any new members to join.  Bryan discussed the Initial Data Elements for the new Home Page.  The topics and goals are:  National Service, Commission, Maine Spirit of Volunteerism, Emergency Management, and the Culture and Why of Volunteerism.  Bryan showed and discussed the new web home page that is in progress.  By December, it should be lieve.  Discussion followed.  Tilton-Flood said they are starting off with the priorities in the workplan knowing the web site will evolve over time and be kept up-to-date.   Tilton-Flood welcomed comments and sent out an invitation to join the committee. 

Financial Oversight.  Shorty reported that the committee only has 2 members, Doak and himself.  The Commission has to act on the budget for calendar year 2021 because the application for these federal funds is due Monday. Although the proposed budget had been emailed to all members, Maryalice put it on the screen for the presentation.  Shorty and Maryalice explained the budget figures.  Shorty reported that the budget balances look good because the Commission cannot spend more than it brings in.  Maryalice explained the different cost centers and which provide match for the federal funds. The Commission’s budget is unusual as it looks like a nonprofit.  This is how commissions were set up. Shorty reported that matching sources of funds are decreasing. If this trend continues there will be serious problems. The Maine Volunteer Foundation needs to step up. Even replacing sponsorships for activities would be useful.

Shorty made a pitch for commissions to join the Finance Committee. It is a good opportunity to learn and help serve, to grow yourself professionally. Moved by Shorty to approve the office budget for 2021.  Second by Phelps.  Vote on the motion:  In favor – Barrett, Fiori, Nixon, Phelps, Portela, Shorty, and Tilton-Flood.  Opposed – none.  Motion approved.

State Budget Reductions and Changes. The Commission had one year of a direct allocation of state funds to support its work. In the current year, reductions have been through curtailments. The budget process for the next biennium (SFY2022 and 2023) reflect a 10% reduction each year.

Staffing Update. There are two vacancies.  The application deadline for the Program Officer – Volunteer Sector Initiatives position closed Tuesday. The Office Administrator position will remain unfilled until after the new year. Bev Ludden will stay with the Commission as a contracted temp until the end of the eyar.

CNCS Update. Cheesman reported that a press release has gone out concerning the new logo and branding. The federal fiscal year has just ended. The competition for RSVP project grants has concluded. 

Planning and Future Initiatives:

Establishing Commission Funding Priorities for 2021-2026. Chair Branham reminded everyone this work builds off the research report Anthony Inhorn did for the Commission this past summer. The work identified potential funding priorities based on a reviews of other state agency studies, strategic plans, and interviews with those agencies about the impact of COVID on their priorities.  The report identified 13 primary and 6 secondary potential areas for targeting funds. The report and executive summary were distributed to Commissioners with meeting materials. The areas listed were displayed on screen for this discussion.

As context, members were reminded that when the Commission does not make the final selections for awards, the federal funding priorities prevail. The Commission funding priorities apply when the Commission has full control over the final award decisions. The discussion opened with a comment that the full list was too great and, in order to have any real impact, there should not be more than 3 or 4 priorities. Other members asked if there should be priority areas or should the Commission let communities identify their most critical issues. In other words, should the process be focused investment or community driven. At the end of discussion, it was agreed to use a hybrid approach meaning 3-4 areas would be identified as particular interest areas for grant applications but any community issue could be proposed. The Maine Rural State grants would remain focused (from the Commission perspective) on capacity building but, as with the standard grants, the request for proposals would indicate the issues the Commission is particularly interested in supporting. It was noted that having funding priorities would also give Michael direction in terms of his outreach to community organizations. He could focus on the areas of highest interest to the Commission and help develop program applications in those areas. As a point of information, the efforts of current AmeriCorps and VISTA programs were shared with Commissioners in a document sent before the meeting.

The members next undertook a ranking process. There were two rounds. The first narrowed the full set and the second identified the final priorities. For 2021-2026, these are the areas for focused investment: Public Health – including substance use and mental health; Workforce development – including green jobs and climate crisis/action; Housing – affordable and safe housing; and, Environmental/community sustainability which would encompass emergency preparedness and aspects of transportation. Moved by Tilton-Flood to approve the funding priorities.  Second by Barrett.  Vote on the motion:  In favor – Barrett, Fiori, Phelps, Shorty, and Tilton-Flood.  Opposed – none.  Motion approved.

These results will go out for public comment during November and final adoption will be at the December 18 meeting.

Business Wrap Up.

Reminder to complete the meeting evaluation form (link is in email sent after the meeting.)

Next meeting will be December 18 at 10:00 am.

Moved by Shorty to adjourn.  Seconded by Barrett.  Vote on the motion:  In favor – Barrett, Fiori, Phelps,  Shorty, and Tilton-Flood.  Opposed – none.  Abstentions – none. Motion approved.

The meeting adjourned at 1:11 pm.