North Saanich may use share of COVID-19 relief grant worth $2.71 million to help support local charities. (Black Press Media file photo)

North Saanich may use share of COVID-19 relief grant worth $2.71 million to help support local charities. (Black Press Media file photo)

North Saanich considers supporting charities with COVID-19 grant

Organizations who provide services vulnerable populations, such as food banks, could benefit

North Saanich may end up supporting local non-profits with COVID-19 relief funds.

The allotted the municipality $2.71 million in grant funding to ease the financial effects of the pandemic.

The Canada-BC Safe Restart Agreement earmarks direct grants of up to $425 million to local governments to help them with the financial impacts of the pandemic as well as costs related to the initial emergency and the subsequent re-opening. Restart grants on the Saanich Peninsula include more than $3.45 million for Central Saanich and more than $2.75 million for Sidney.

But if the three communities appeared to have received comparable amounts based on population, North Saanich’s circumstances differ with potential consequences for how the municipality may end up spending the money.

Stephanie Munro, North Saanich’s director of financial services, said in a report before council Monday that the pandemic did not “significantly” impact service levels and revenue streams compared to many municipalities in the region that operate recreation centres and have increased costs related to supporting vulnerable populations.

According to Munro, COVID-19 related expenses came in at $100,878, which would be eligible for the grant funding. Staff plan to present an updated expense total in time for 2021 budget discussions.

RELATED: Sidney receives more than $2.75M in provincial support to deal with COVID-19 costs

Looking more broadly, the report outlines several options for the funds, including the distribution of funds to non-profit and charitable organizations that provide services to vulnerable populations – such as food banks.

If council were to consider “distributing a portion of funds to non-profit and charitable organizations it may be beneficial to identify desired funding level and develop process to guide granting decisions,” the report reads.

A portion of grant funds could also be used the address the revenue shortfall of the Panorama Recreation Centre. Central Saanich is set to consider a notice of motion from Mayor Ryan Windsor asking staff to investigate options for spending a portion of that municipality’s COVID-19 grant on the shortfall of the recreation centre.

The report from Munro also reveals that historically low interest rates have hurt the municipality’s investment portfolio. “As a result, [municipal] investments in new deposits are earning a significantly lower rate of interest and actual investment revenues for 2020 are projected to be $200,000 lower than budgeted,” her report says.

According to Munro, North Saanich splits this investment revenue across general operations and the infrastructure replacement reserves. She added that the municipality aims to earn a rate of interest on replacement reserves that keeps pace with inflation to “effectively fund” future replacement costs. “The revenue shortfall would be an eligible use of grant funding and would ensure (municipal) reserve levels are adequately maintained,” she said.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com