Council ponders grant changes

Centre Well­ing­ton council is reconsidering the way it hands out taxpayers’ mon­ey to community groups.

After last year’s grant talks, councillors decided there should be a review of the pro­cess. Deputy-Treasurer Mark Bradey and Parks and Rec­reation Director Andy Gol­die prepared a report. They noted before the township set up a policy, council spent a great deal of time discussing the allocation of the cash.

Council now receives vetted applications and committee recommendations. The Bradey and Goldie re­port suggested three options:

– keep the existing pol­icy;

– discontinue township grants; or

– modify the current policy.

Goldie said that the public’s appetite for grants of all kinds is continual, and grow­ing. “There isn’t a day or a week that goes by where we don’t get requests to donate facilities and equipment for charitable groups,” he said. “In other pla­c­es, groups come to council.”

He said waiver of fees is used by some councils to offset its grant refusals. “We’re starting to see more of those requests,” he said.

Councillor Fred Morris sug­gested forming a committee con­sisting of himself, Goldie, and Bradey to do a review and bring a proposal to council.

Councillor Walt Visser said, “I agree, and disagree.”

He said the township should either re-write the policy, or stop giving grants altogether.

He called the issue “a quandary. We’re using tax­pay­ers money and we dole it out to those we think should get it. The only time we should give away money is an emergency.”

Visser said he could see the township rescuing a group in a financial crunch, but it should “not provide operating money – not mad money – money we give to somebody who has a passion for something. I don’t think we should give money for a pas­sion.”

Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj said council could consider the last two options. She noted there are many groups that need money, and wondered, “Are there other funding re­sources out there?” She said she wants to re­view the policy.

Councillor Kirk McElwain said council can look at poli­cies from other places.

Councillor Bob Foster said last year’s grants were “a mini­mal amount,” and totalled about $20,000. He noted that in previous years, it has been “as much as $50,000.”

Foster said many of the groups seeking financial help are “small groups and have no funds. It’s a good thing we sup­port some of these small groups.”

He suggested the township simply “tighten the param­e­ters” for grants. He said that can be done by capping the amounts, and possibly by giv­ing grants for “one year only. Put a cap on the money avail­able for any one organization.”

Morris said he does not quite agree that some of the groups are “mere hobbies” and said some of them have “be­come part of the fabric of the community.”

Goldie noted that there were $25,000 in grants last year, but another $24,000 went to cul­tur­al groups.

Visser agreed that a com­mittee could “gather informa­tion.” Foster asked to be included on that committee, and council agreed.