In Madera County, officials at the Economic Development Commission do not take board members out to breakfast, lunch, or dinner, according to Bobby Kahn, the commission’s executive director.

The commission was one of four organizations the California Association for Local Economic Development, or CALED, recommended for the TCEDA to use for comparison in an audit of the authority’s management and operational practices.

The commission has about the same annual budget as the TCEDA and has three employees, including Kahn.

Kahn said he could only provide approximate numbers on meals Monday because the commission’s offices were closed for President’s Day, but he estimated they may buy between 10 to 15 lunches per year for potential clients or other people they feel is necessary.

“We try to stay away from dinner,” he said, adding that they have purchased dinners in rare exceptions when the situation warrants it.

They also typically don’t buy meals for others while traveling, but Kahn said it does happen maybe once or twice per year.

Kahn estimated he makes 12 to 15 trips per year to trade shows and marketing missions and no more than three trips a year for conferences and legislative purposes.

He also said his meals are paid for when he’s traveling, but officials from the county or one of the cities that fund the commission pay for their own expenses if they are with him.

The commission’s annual budget is about the same as the TCEDA’s — $460,000 — but it serves a county that has a population more than three times larger than Tuolumne County.

Like the TCEDA, the commission is a joint powers authority that’s funded largely by taxpayer money from the county and cities within it.
There are 13 commissioners that include one representative each from the Madera County Board of Supervisors, Madera City Council, Chowchilla City Council, in addition to various chambers of commerce throughout the county.

Kahn said the commissioners serve on a volunteer basis and do not receive mileage reimbursements. He noted they used to pay for the commission’s president to attend the annual CALED conference, but stopped doing so at least 12 years ago.

“About the only perk is we do provide some cookies and coffee at our meetings,” he said.

Public documents show the commission received about $214,000 from the county, $175,000 from the City of Madera, and $32,700 from the City of Chowchilla for the current fiscal year that runs through June 30.

Funding is based on population.

Kahn said the remainder of the commission’s funding is raised by two events, fees from its small business loan program and small grants.

In 2017, Kahn earned $126,393 in total wages, according to the state’s public employee compensation website.

The commission also has an office manager and business development and marketing manager, who earned between about $42,500 and $51,500 in 2017.

The TCEDA Governing Board is comprised of seven members that include two county supervisors, two members of the Sonora City Council, and three at-large members from the business community.

About $344,300, or 77 percent, of the authority’s annual budget comes from the county and about $103,000 from the city. The TCEDA raises roughly $13,000 a year through grants and reimbursements it receives.

If the funding for TCEDA were to be divided by population, the city’s portion would be less than $45,000.

The other three agencies that CALED recommended to the TCEDA to use for comparison were the Siskiyou County Economic Development Council, Mariposa County Economic Development Corp., and Opportunity Stanislaus, all of which are nonprofit organizations as opposed to joint powers authorities.

Opportunity Stanislaus and the Siskiyou County Economic Development Council each have a staff ranging from eight to 15 people and are governed by boards with members that come mostly from the private sector.

Mariposa County County Economic Development Corp. has an executive director and a board comprised entirely of volunteers.