Operational funding for community groups was approved at last Monday’s (June 26) city council meeting but some councillors believe more dollars are needed.
Councillors Dylan Bressey and Chris Thiessen voted against approving the operational funding, saying it does not match inflationary costs.
“We should at least keep community group funding up with inflation,” said Bressey.
Operational funding makes up 2.3 per cent ($2.5 million) of the city’s annual operating budget, and the community group operational funding budget increased by 0.8 per cent in 2024.
“A 0.8 per cent increase is actually a reduction in what they can do in our community,” said Bressey.
“This isn’t really about generosity.
“This is about where we can get the best impact for our residents, and I think often community groups are able to deliver on things that we want to build (like) fierce community pride and an inclusive and caring community.”
Thiessen said some community groups rely on operational funding to stay open.
“The Centre for Creative Arts, who came to us about two months ago, said about 90 per cent of their operational funds that we give them actually just go to keeping the lights on; they don’t go to staff, they don’t go to programs,” said Thiessen.
“There are many organizations that are going to be struggling to keep their lights on, and we should be taking that into mindful consideration.”
Coun. Grant Berg said he loves the groups and what they do for the community but fears giving more would add to a burden for ratepayers, who are also paying higher bills due to inflation.
Coun. Kevin O’Toole echoed Berg, noting some decisions at the table are hard to make.
“Sometimes we just don’t have the money to go around.”
Coun. Gladys Blackmore asked Bressey why he did not make a motion if he disagreed with the current funding.
Bressey responded that he wanted to gauge council’s interest in increasing funding, noting that community groups are currently dealing with constraints and uncertainty about their funding.
“If we’re going to kick this down the road for months and just say no, we’re not changing anything, then I think that hurts the groups,” said Bressey.
He said if council voted against the current funding, it would show that council wants to reevaluate it.
Blackmore said, previously working in an organization that depended on funding, “I would rather know what my allocation is today, even if in the future (in) three or four months from now, that might be reconfigured and might increase.”
Mayor Jackie Clayton said the city supports community groups beyond just granting operational funding but also offers gifts-in-kind, sponsorships and other grants.
“Operating costs are significant; people are struggling to pay their utility bills, to pay the grocery bills.”
She said organizations need to look inward and become fiscally creative now.
“Many of these groups may just have to delay a project or may have to delay expansion, and I think that many people are making those tough decisions right now.”
The city received 36 applications for the 2024-2025 community group operational funding this year.
The city’s gift-in-kind was valued at $4.3 million in 2022.
By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jul 06, 2023