Local groups on their own

Decision to not provide financial support to community groups philosophically at odds with staff report recommendations

It might be unfair to say the spirit of Scrooge visited City Hall last night (Monday), but budget-conscious members of general committee nonetheless dropped a lump of coal under the tree as a belated Christmas gift to community groups seeking financial support.
Presented with a staff report recommending a renewed community grant program, committee instead decided to do away with the program altogether and get out of the business of providing funds to support the projects of local groups.
The most immediate casualty of the shift in attitude is the Crohn’s and Colitus Charity Hockey Tournament, which had requested, through Ward 1 Coun. Bonnie Ainsworth, $5,600 to help support its event at the Allandale Recreation Centre, April 30 and May 1.
The grant program had an annual budget of $100,000. In the report, staff had recommended the program be approved for the coming year. A majority of committee felt otherwise.
“I don’t believe we should be handing out money to any worthwhile charity, no matter how noble the cause,” said Ward 6 Coun. Michael Prowse. “We don’t have it and we don’t have the ability to give it.”
He added that as a council “we suck at saying no” to the range of community groups requesting funding.
Ward 7 Coun. John Brassard at first suggested deferring the question until 2011, but soon after moved to have the program shelved indefinitely, essentially terminating it. Pointing out that the City was due to lose about $180,000 from changes to overnight parking, Brassard said that money had to be replaced.
“We’ve got to make this money up somehow, and the unfortunate reality is that we just can’t keep on giving money away … it’s $100,000 I want to bring back in-house.”
If at some later date a new council, or a member of this council, wanted to bring the program back, it would be run as recommended in the staff report.
The program was created last year to put in place an official mechanism to review requests from community groups, and move away from the past ad-hoc nature of such requests. A budget of $100,000 was set for the program.
With the decision to effectively kill the program, committee split philosophically with the report, which said:
“The proposed Community Grant program demonstrates council’s commitment to working with groups who provide beneficial programs, services or projects to the community, while at the same time recognizes the financial constraints impacting the City’s ability to provide funding to these groups.”
The program as recommended would have set eligibility and assessment criteria through an application-based process.
That’s not the business the City should be in, said Prowse, maintaining it’s the municipality’s responsibility to provide services like waste collection and street plowing, and not to support community groups in their various endeavours.
Ward 10 Coun. Alex Nuttall, anticipating an extension of the program, had suggested council approve any future grant recommendations. Ward 2. Coun. Lynn Strachan countered that she didn’t want any political involvement in the grant-awarded process. Mayor Jeff Lehman said the program had outlived its usefulness.

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