Talk around council tables this time of year is all about budget.
After all, the primary role of municipal elected officials is to make decisions about divvying up tax dollars – months of interchange and debate end up in the annual May budget followed by the mailing out of respective property tax bills.
But there is a particular line item that Trail council discusses around the table all year. That is the grant-in-aid and sponsorship requests that flood the politicians early in the new year and trickle into almost every governance meeting for the ensuing 11 months.
This week’s GOC (Governance and Operations Committee) meeting was no different – various community groups put in submissions that amounted to well over $30,000.
All are good causes for the region, so how does Trail wade through the never-ending requests?
First of all, the 2017 budget for this type of application nears $266,000. Of that, about $80,000 is already spoken for in multi-year funding agreements and recurring cash requests. Those include grants for community services such as $7,500 for the Generation to Generation Society (an after school program for children ages 8-12); YCDC (Trail youth program) receives a $20,000 operating grant; Career Development Services $20,000 for its workers with physical or development challenges, to train and operate the Gyro Park concession; and $15,000 goes into “Getting to Home,” a program that helps house homeless people in Trail and the surrounding area.
With Trail council members only in their second governance meeting of 2017, the year-to-date commitment already stands at $25,000-plus not including those commitments, so the panel had to weigh their decisions carefully on Monday, because there’s still most of the year to go.
In the end, for example, the Trail chamber was granted half its $10,000 request and a 50 per cent rental waiver for its upcoming Kootenay Healthy Lifestyles Expo; the Crowe grad class and Greater Trail Minor Hockey received 50 per cent rental waivers with a combined value of approximately $3,000; Slopes for Hope (Canadian Cancer Society) was gifted 20 youth passes to the Aquatic Centre; Greater Trail Hospice was granted a 50 per cent waiver ($160) for its annual swimathon but was declined 25 free adult passes.
This particular item often brings out lively discussion at the council table, because let’s face it, no one wants to say “No” to a good cause.
But in the past, the budget has been blown by early fall, so it was time for tighter guidelines to be put in place.
The current deliberation tool was brought forward by Coun. Lisa Pasin last year.
“The form was always in place,” Pasin clarified. “But we tweaked it to provide a more robust framework for assessing applications.”
Coun. Lisa Pasin
Each applicant must fill out the document with financial information and correlating requests for a prize donation, cash contribution or facility rental waiver, which now includes council’s policy of 50 per cent. (If the group is from out of area, the waiver could be 25 per cent)
“The grant program attempts to assist non-profit, charitable organizations with their events, by providing a reduction in rental costs when they occur at City of Trail facilities or through a sponsorship donation,” Pasin explained. “These contributions through the City of Trail’s grant in aid program ultimately help our community, as the profits from these events and benefits of their programming are maintained, to varying extents, in the City of Trail, the Greater Trail area or the province.”
Organizations who designate their profits locally (Trail and Greater Trail), and thus more directly and positively impact our local communities and citizens, are generally provided a larger percentage of their request, Pasin said.
“Organizations that flow their funds through provincial organizations, where the direct impact on the funds remaining in our community is decreased, tend to receive a lower amount of sponsorship,” she added.
“If it is a non-profit, charitable organization that is functioning for the good of the entire Greater Trail Area (GTA), or has participants from the GTA, we suggest that they request funds from all municipalities throughout the GTA, so a proportionate share can be paid by each municipality, to assist all our citizens and programs.”