Council reviewing grant-in-aid policy

Community Foundation being considered to take over grant distribution.

Sicamous council may be outsourcing the distribution of community grants-in-aid.

Mayor Terry Rysz said council has been reviewing the district’s policy for community grants, and is contemplating handing the task of grant distribution over to the Shuswap Community Foundation.

Rysz noted Community Foundation representatives have made presentations to past councils in which they offered to take over the grant-in-aid function for the district, as it does for the City of Salmon Arm.

“Also, there’s another formula the Shuswap Community Foundation has where we can maybe add additional money and we can look at supporting the foundation through that method as well,” said Rysz. “I don’t know where we’re going to go. I’m just looking at getting the Community Foundation to do another presentation to council for clarity.”

At a March 2014 presentation to council, the Community Foundation’s Karen Angove explained the district would be required to pay a five-per-cent administrative fee; however, “decisions for giving out grants is more arm’s length (from council), its not people having their favourite charities or people bothering you all the time about getting money. So, it removes you from the decision making.”

In addition to how grants-in-aid are distributed, council is looking at how much should be doled out annually. A report to council notes the amounts given over the past few years have fluctuated between one and 1.5 per cent of general municipal taxation revenue, totalling between $39,000 and $59,000. The same report notes Salmon Arm provides a flat amount of $50,000 annually, while Revelstoke grants amount to $20,000 annually.

In its 2014 budget year, council had the task of deliberating on $71,400 in grant requests, having to reduce it to $40,000. Later in the year, the district’s finance committee was able to find an additional $11,000 in the budget for grants.

“That’s a lot for this little community, but it’s also a reflection on the need for this… and the support the district gives these community groups to keep them vibrant and alive,” said Rysz.

The staff report also states grant requests related to the funding of on-going operational costs – salaries, budgets, equipment repairs and maintenance will be limited, and that community groups are encouraged not to be dependent upon the district for long-term funding.

“I’ve always felt that grants in aid should be there for support but not necessarily cash flow for some of these organizations on a yearly basis,” said Rysz. “And I do see that happening and that’s a bit unfortunate.”

The Shuswap Community Foundation sets out guidelines for grant applications that state it does not normally fund ongoing operations, that grants “are intended to be one-time and should support projects that can be completed and evaluated within a reasonable period.”