Central Saanich reviews grants-in-aid program

District looks to reduce level of grant funding in the community over two to three years.

Central Saanich council is looking at reallocating funds from grant-in-aid policy and looking at possibly reducing it in two to three years.

Councillor Bob Thompson made a notice of motion Oct. 5, sparking discussion around the existing practice of committing one per cent of the municipal budget to the grants-in-aid program.

Mayor Ryan Windsor said the grants-in-aid account has been growing while the municipality faces depreciating infrastructure and related costs.

“All of these factors have led to an increase in the budget itself and so one per cent is now a much larger number. It was approaching $140,000.”

Windsor said in talking to former councilors, including current councillor Chris Graham, the amount was around $47,000 some 15 years ago, which represented one per cent of the District’s budget at that time.

He added the grants-in-aid practice itself is not policy and isn’t written anywhere.

“It’s just been something that successive councils have inherited and followed in the absence of a written policy.”

The discussion is about how they will allocate the funds for the program and where they might send that money if it’s not used for its original purpose.

In terms of reduction, Windsor said that is one of the considerations, along with deciding who the municipality will fund. Other big questions are whether they fund organizations on an ongoing basis through grants, or do they do it in other ways?

When asked if the District is reducing its funding to the grants, Windsor said council is looking at that as part of the big picture.

“Another element of what we’re working on is who we fund. The general sense is we want to create more clarity around what we fund and if we fund something on an ongoing basis, is it right to be doing that particular funding mechanism through grants-in-aid or is it right to look at it differently or is it right to say maybe we’re not interested in funding that service.”

Council gave themselves two to three years to review the program — not to eliminate it but to clarify it. Windsor said the time delay is to ensure any change doesn’t come as a shock to user groups who might not receive funding.

He said the program might be reduced, but that doesn’t mean that everyone they are funding won’t get anything from the District. It’s simply the mechanism for funding that might change.

“We don’t want to shock them because obviously we appreciate that these organizations provide value to the community,” Windsor said, “but the question we have to answer is are we the appropriate funding source for them?”

In terms of the policy itself, Windsor said it might get more refined and may lead to a reduction in the overall money spent.

Windsor said if there are any savings left after council has gone through the process and determining who they are going to fund and how, they will have to turn their mind to what the savings could be.

“The general sense that I got around the table was this idea that it’s one per cent that has been growing sort of unchecked as a practice over the years from potentially less than $50,000 15 or 20 years ago, to now almost $150,000,” Windsor explained. “It’s not something that we want to continue with. We want to change that in some way.”