Grant program helps small communities make ends meet

Last week, the province released $40 million in small community grants and another $75 million is slated for disbursement in June.

Few things in life have no strings attached, but in a way that defines the province’s Small Community Grant program.

Unconditional funds are distributed twice a year, giving municipalities with populations under 19,000 the leeway to invest the money in local needs such as safety initiatives, infrastructure upgrades, capital projects, or administrative and service delivery priorities.

Last week, the province released $40 million in small community grants and another $75 million is slated for disbursement in June.

Each community recognizes the grant as general revenue though respective councils are the decision-makers in how the cash will be used.

While Trail council hasn’t directed its $470,000 into a service or project at this point, most likely the funding will be applied to the capital plan, explained David Perehudoff, the city’s chief administrative officer (CAO).

This year’s grant increased approximately $173,000 from 2014, and bumps total capital expenditures from the general coffer to about $2.1 million compared to $1.74 million from last year.

“This will effectively eliminate any reserve dependency that has been built into the budget over the last few years,” Perehudoff said.

“The moneys do provide flexibility in the context of such things as capital spending or can be used to offset costs in the interest of reducing the overall municipal property tax levy.”

Rossland will take in close to $478,000 through the grant program, said the city’s Mayor Kathy Moore.

“It just goes into our general revenue and helps us keep the lights on,” she added.

In past years, Fruitvale has used its small community grant to augment taxation revenue to provide basic services such as roads and transportation, sidewalks and street lighting, said CAO Lila Cresswell.

She explained the amount is formula-basedand has varied over the last few years, but Fruitvale will receive almost $480,000 by June 30.

Cresswell said the province is providing an advance on next year’s sum, which means in 2016 the grants could be seven to 10 per cent less than 2015.

“The amount is 86.5 per cent of what our taxes are,” Cresswell noted. “So you can see that any changes in the amount the province transfers to us under this revenue sharing program may have quite an impact on taxpayers or service levels provided.”

Montrose will receive approximately $395,000 this year, says CAO Bryan Teasdale.

“Generally, these funds are used to help complete general administration and operational activities for the village (both past and present budgets),” Teasdale explained “And have been fairly consistent over the past few years, although the name of these annual transfers has changed.”

Regional districts are disbursed money during the funding cycle to assist with administration costs through a basic grant program.

The scale of the grant is based on regional district population in 50,000 resident increments; beginning at $120,000 for regional districts up to 20,000 residents and phasing out at 250,000 residents.

Each regional district receives an additional $5,000 for each local community commission.

This year the Regional District of Kootenay boundary will receive $207,000 in unconditional funding, according to Beth Burget, RDKB’s general manager of finance.

The district budgeted $150,000 in general administration and $40,000 in electoral area administration to offset administrative expenses, she added.

During the granting cycle, Trail receives additional funds, this year $112,000, through traffic fine revenue.

The Traffic Fine Revenue Sharing (TFRS) program funding helps offset the cost of policing and community safety.

“The payment helps offset the $2.1 million the city pays for policing services,” explained Perehudoff. “It is not specifically directed towards a “traffic related” project but forms part of general revenue.”

The TFRS grants come from ticket fines and court-imposed fines on violation tickets, and the amount of money a municipality receives is based on its contribution to total municipal policing costs.

Only communities that pay for policing – Trail, Nelson and Castlegar, receive traffic fine revenues. Rural communities with populations under 5,000 that do not pay directly for policing are accounted for through a reduction in the police tax rate.