Council sets up new grant to aid community’s social service groups

The city will be imposing strict conditions on a new grant program established by council to assist social service organizations

The city will be imposing strict conditions on a new grant program established by council to assist social service organizations.

During financial planning in December, council set aside $25,000 from its gaming reserve to create a social fund.

The funding will help council fulfill requests from the many social groups that approach council for money after the city budget has already been set.

Just how that money will be distributed has been left up to city staff for guidance.

In a recent report to council, Myriah Foort, the city’s finance manager, said because of an extensive need in the community for social funding, the guidelines created by staff will ensure that any funds awarded provide the most impact and direct benefit to the community.

“The recommendation is that any grant monies provided by the city are to be used for incremental, or new initiatives by the requesting organization,” Foort said.

“Any programs that are being proposed for funding under the city’s social grant funding must (also) have matching funding (50 per cent) in place from another source.”

That aligns with what Mayor Andy Adams has consistently told non-profits that come to council looking for money – that council “likes to help those who help themselves.”

Foort said it will also “ensure that the city is not bearing the full cost of any additional programs and/or services.”

She said grant money provided by the city should be considered “seed” funding.

Foort is also recommending that groups seeking operating funding or money for existing services be ineligible.

If annual requests for funding from social groups exceed the allotted budget of $25,000, organizations will either receive their requested grant amount or a minimum of $5,000 –whichever is the lesser.

Foort is suggesting that administration of the grant be handed over to the city’s Community Partnership Committee which handles all applications for the city’s arts and culture grant-in-aid program and makes recommendations to council on which organizations should be granted permissive tax exemptions.

The committee is made up of community members who manage the distribution of the grants and exemptions based on city policy approved by council.

In recent years the committee has been overwhelmed with applications for grants-in-aid and as such, council has been looking at expanding the program.

Last year alone, the city gave out grants to 15 community groups, totalling $552,264 – an increase of more than $25,000 over what was given out in 2014 to 17 groups.

The committee last year received grant requests totalling $609,177 which exceeded the city’s grant-in-aid budget by $5,428.

The new social fund is expected to help fill in the gap.

It’s a move not typically done by municipal governments but one that council saw fit for community organizations that are struggling with significant reductions, or in some cases, complete elimination of gaming funds from the province.

“While direct funding of social programs is typically not the responsibility of local governments, the City of Campbell River has set aside some funds to assist local organizations that are increasingly looking to local government as other funding opportunities become more scarce,” Foort said.

City staff is now expected to go back and draft an official policy on the distribution of the grant funding based on the principles provided to council.

City council will have the final say in the coming weeks on the policy.