Columbia Shuswap Regional District electoral area directors (EAD) have approved a policy amendment that prevents the awarding of grants three-months prior to election time.
At the Aug. 7 meeting in Salmon Arm, Jodi Kooistra, CSRD manager of Finance, advised EAD directors that Policy F-30 Electoral Grants-in-Aid would replace two policies, with the only substantive difference being the formalization of not giving them out within the last three months prior to an election.
But the rural directors asked that the amendment also include a mechanism to provide greater accountability.
First up to the plate with comments was Area D director René Talbot, who requested some flexibility in the case of an emergency, where a community group might have a dangerous situation such as a collapsing roof, or where waiting three months, might prevent a group from leveraging other funding.
Area C director Paul Demenok supported flexibility on the three-month issue but asked that accountability on the part of the recipients be notched up in the form of documentation that shows projects for which the money is requested are completed.
Talbot noted he keeps his eye on grant in aid projects and demanded the money be returned when a Ranchero project was not completed within three years.
But Demenok argued his electoral area is huge and more populated, and he has many grant in aid requests.
This led chief administrative officer Charles Hamilton to ask if the regional district should have a grants-in-aid program.
“Lots of other jurisdictions don’t, including the TNRD,” he said. “These are from tax revenue. Should it be used to re-distribute income?”
Area A director Loni Parker said she hasn’t collected a grant in aid for the last two years.
“I have opted to not accrue it for the last two years in order to keep taxes down,” she said. “You’re not going to get money willy-nilly because there is no willy-nilly money.”
Demenok however was of another mind.
“A lot of services are done by groups and if you remove all those funds, you’d open a can of worms,” he said, pointing out many of CSRD-owned halls are operated and maintained by service groups. “But I want to see a reconciliation signed by a director before they get any money ever again.”
Area E director and chair of the meeting Rhona Martin supported retaining the program and pointed out many other regional districts have discretionary funds, which do the same thing.
“Leave them where they are, it’s not a large amount of money often… but if we remove grants in aid, I have a lot of groups that would die off.”
Area F Larry Morgan was not disposed to discussing an end to the program either.
“The program is heavily used and supports many facilities throughout Area F and is an invaluable tool to support the community,” he said. “Coming back to Paul’s comments, there’s no follow through. I’ve got money going out to many places and I think there needs to be follow through, but I don’t want to be the person who has to go out there to check it.”
Hamilton expressed some concern about the amount of staff time that might be expended.
Both Hamilton and the directors, supported Kooistra’s recommendation to endorse an amendment to the grant-in-aid policy that would preclude handing them out in the three months prior to an election and those that exceed $2,000 would require greater accountability.
“What I would like to do when the cheque is issued, is include a letter saying ‘you agreed to provide documentation and you must provide it no later than 90 days,” she said.
Directors will consider specific post application documentation and certification requirements will be included in the August agenda.