Council keeps status quo on grants

Council will not be handing out any new grants to organizations this year, declining 10 new applicants.

Council will not be handing out any new grants to organizations this year, instead opting to keep the status quo and revisiting the process later in the summer  to decide if it wants to keep the current model.

In 2014, the city granted $995,805 to non-profit organizations. Of those, the Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Museum of Rail Travel and the Public Library represent $761,835. The remaining $233,970 in grants was allocated across 21 non-profit organizations.

Coun. Wesly Graham suggested approving the status quo and doing a comprehensive review of the grants to organizations process.

“So then by the time, say, August or September roles out, we have it so organizations know well in advance what the criteria will be,” Graham said. “Right now we say ‘yes’ to one and ‘no’ to another — it’s sort of a hodgepodge. But if we were to actually get more criteria wrapped around it that this council feels comfortable with and get it out in front of organizations well in advance of other organizations accepting donations, it might work better for us next year.”

CAO Wayne Staudt said that was an excellent suggestion.

“It’s late in the game here now for us to change the process for 2015,” Staudt said. “I would suggest we stay with the status quo that we’ve done in 2014 and then, as councillor Graham is suggesting, look at having some discussion with staff and amongst yourselves.”

Staudt said this this wouldn’t be the first council that has looked at alternatives to the grants to organizations process.

In 2014 there were 10 new applications for funding for this year which would have raised the total of grants to $1.066 million.

In the report, the city’s finance staff gave three options for council consideration.

Option 1 – To stay with the current model. This option keeps the status quo and is what council decided to go with for this funding year.

Option 2 – Determine an annual grant allocation limit. This option recognizes that there is only so much money to that can be allocated. Organizations like the Cranbrook Public Library, Canadian Museum of Rail Travel and the Chamber of Commerce would be considered of a standing nature and included annually. All other applications would be considered on an annual basis case-by-case.

Option 3 – Columbia Basin Trust Community Initiatives and Affected Areas funding. This option would transfer the current application process from the city to the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) Community Initiatives program. Staff said this would remove political pressure from council, but organizations would likely get less funding and the city has less control.

Graham put forward a motion for city staff review the program and bring back recommendations in June, so that council can have a program in place for September.

Coun. Danielle Cardozo said she also wants to include accountability measures into the process as well if possible — where organizations would be required to show where else they have applied for grants.

“CBT does it, Columbia Power does it — it’s pretty standard in grant applications now,” she said. “Because it let’s us know that they were able to get funds at X, Y and Z, while this place was not able to apply anywhere.”

Mayor Lee Pratt supported that addition.

“I know there are different organizations in town that are coming to get money and they kind of have synergies that they could work with other organizations. But for some reason Joe doesn’t want to work with Sally, and Sally doesn’t want to talk to Bill, so they all come separate.”

Pratt said he was interested in having staff look at setting up a central group that organizations would have to belong to to be able to apply for a grant.

“In the big picture if you can get them all together they would all benefit from it and the city would get better bang for our buck,” Pratt said.

Coun. Ron Popoff said it brings up the question of what the community sees as the core activities to support.

“Everything is worthy, but what should be our core taxpayer interest?” Popoff asked.

Cardozo suggested a needs assessment could help to back up some of council’s decisions.

The motion for status quo was approved by council as well.

Later in the meeting, a recommendation from city staff to approve a donation of $500 to the Cranbrook Bantam Tier II Hornets brought up another debate on the grants.

The city sets aside $25,000 as a contingency for items like the request.

“That $25,000 is council’s pool to address those requests,” Charlotte Osborne, director of Finance and Computer Services, said. It is used at council discretion.

Coun. Tom Shypitka said the players are ambassadors going out to other cities and also cheap advertising for people coming to Cranbrook.

“This is good stuff,” Shypitka said.

Coun. Norma Blissett agreed that it’s wonderful to have tournaments come to town.

“What concerns me is all the people that applied for grants to organizations that we turned down, and some of them asked for $1,000, $1,500 or $500, and now we’re saying as soon as we see this application: yes. Maybe those people would be better to just come and ask for council contingency.”

Blissett said council needs to think about where it wants to direct the city’s money.

“I look at this and I see a no brainer,” Coun. Isaac Hockley said. “You’ve got eight to 16 teams spending a week in Cranbrook. I mean $500? They’re going to spend thousands of dollars.”

Cardozo agreed that there will be economic benefits, but agreed with Blissett as well.

“We just set a standard saying that, ‘no that’s it, we’re not doing anything above or beyond what we did last year,’” she said. “We just turned down 10 different organizations and they also are organizations that put a lot of economic benefit into the community.”

Staudt said the contingency deals more with spur of the moment requests.

Council approved the request.