Council discusses the nature of contingency

Coun. Wesly Graham brings up questions about how contingency funding should be spent.

  • May. 22, 2015 6:00 p.m.

Arne Petryshen

Cranbrook City Council approved granting $500 to the Mount Baker Secondary School Robotics Club to help them to represent B.C. in the upcoming Skills Canada Competition.

At the meeting on May 11, Council also approved $500 to go to the PARTY program.

Both funds came from the contingency fund.

The second approval brought up some questions from Coun. Wesly Graham about how contingency funding should be spent.

“My question is, we just approved the Mount Baker students with robotics because they didn’t know they made it to competition,” Graham said. “In my opinion that’s what contingency fund is for — we have a sports team or something happens that you can’t apply for funds. But this is nothing out of the  ordinary, so curious to know why this would come out of contingency. Contingency is more out of the ordinary, spontaneity — something’s happened.

“I just have a hard time with that, because once we start tapping this contingency for normal operations, we could be seeing more people applying for this fund, rather than what I would see as contingency funds for the robotics competition or a volleyball team.”

Coun. Tom Shypitka agreed and wanted a definition on contingency funding.

“Because, yeah, I thought it was one-offs, things that happened in the spur of the moment, those kinds of things,” he said, noting the PARTY program request seems to be an annual one.

CAO Wayne Staudt said the contingency fund is what Coun. Graham noted.

“Nobody could anticipate that they were going to go to the Canadian National Robotics competition,” Staudt said. “We really should encourage the PARTY  program — and I don’t know if we have or not — to make a grant application in August like we do the other parties. Then they would be considered for a grant to an organization to our budget process. For some reason, we’ve done this a couple of times with them, and they might think this is the process, but it really is not the right process.”

Mayor Lee Pratt noted that the PARTY program did receive some money through the Columbia Basin Community Initiatives Fund, but have not received any money from the original donations that Cranbrook made.

Coun. Ron Popoff recalled that a couple meetings ago it was mentioned that some organizations could possibly use the contingency fund to skirt the regular application process.

“If you were unsuccessful or didn’t get the money you requested up front, then this was a way of coming in the back door, so I’m cautious of that going forward.”

But Popoff said if the PARTY program has been using this process as the way in the past he would be in favour of granting the funds for this time only.

“But in the future, this would not, in my opinion, be considered a contingency, because they probably had ample notice,” he said, noting that Council is pursuing a new granting process for next year.

The City has $25,000 per year for the contingency fund, and CAO Staudt said they have used $3,000.

The robotics team will be heading to Saskatoon for the competition from May 26 to 30.

There are two teams going and a total of five students.

“Congratulations first to Mount Baker for attending another robotics competition,” Popoff said, adding he’d spoken with Bill Walker, teacher at Mount Baker, about the extent of the fundraising the students have been doing.

“They’ve done the means test — they’ve been out doing fundraising and applying to various service clubs in town. They are very close to their goal amount of money.”

The students’ goal was to raise over $14,000 to cover travel flight and travel expenses, plus the cost of air freight for their robots.