ST. PAUL - Town of St. Paul Council has approved revisions to the municipality’s Community Grant Funding Policy which will see fewer operating dollars granted to local groups this year and no capital grants will be provided.
With a 2023 total budget allocation of $10,000 available this year for community groups, the maximum they can receive to assist with operating expenses is $500, down $1,500 from the $2,000 cap previously allocated under the policy. Those requesting the maximum of $500 will still be required to submit financial statements. As in previous years, all applications will come before council for review.
Following an extensive discussion by council on the policy during its Council of the Whole earlier in January, CAO Steven Jeffery brought the revised policy back to council for their consideration at the Jan. 23 council meeting.
“You gave us direction to go back, rehash everything. I had my own bearpit version with my staff and this is what we’ve come up with for council’s review,” Jeffery said during the Jan. 23 council meeting.
The capital grant section of the policy has been grayed out for this operating year, meaning no capital grants will be provided in 2023 to community groups.
“With the limited funds that we have this year, of course we’d love to do everything we possibly can for the community; but with the realization of setting some financial priorities we’ve suspended the capital grants for this year,” Jeffery said.
Sports grants tightened up
Section 4.0 of the policy relating to sporting activities and how council funds them has been extensively discussed at the council level with much of the focus being centered around whether the Town should “acknowledge everyone or do we want to put a focus on those associations hosting a provincial event,” Jeffery said.
Removed from the policy this year is a previous $500 allocation to teams that competed at the local level and have qualified to advance to provincial, national or international levels. A $250 allocation for individual participation at those same levels has also been eliminated.
Instead, the Town is centering its support on teams that are hosting provincial, national or international events in St. Paul to a maximum of $1,000. Applicants are required to submit their anticipated expenses for their competition.
All requests for sporting grants under this policy will now be brought to council. Previously, administration could approve sports grants that fell within the parameters of the policy.
“We thought with the limited funds, council should likely be seeing and approving all of these requests in order to keep a close eye and be able to have those conversations in the community . . . You’ll have the information firsthand.”
Those community organizations looking to book a town facility may be considered for a 50 per cent discount off the regular rental rate. However, items where there is a direct cost to the Town such as laundering the linens – tablecloths, chair covers – there will be no leeway on.
In considering the rental discount of 50 per cent, Jeffery said administration considered where the “breakeven” point was. He said this would give council the ability to give a discount to those associations that need the support and council would still have the ability to waive the fee altogether where appropriate. Jeffery was directed to make it clear in the policy that this would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
“We’ll get through the year,” Mayor Maureen Miller said. “As I said before we got into this, we will make mistakes on this policy for sure, but at least the knowledge around the table is that discussion can happen.”
A brand-new section of the policy relates to the hanging of banners on main street. Jeffery said this is becoming increasingly popular but told council there is a cost to the Town in providing this service.
Going forward, groups requesting to have their banners displayed will be required to pay for the installation and take down costs. Additionally, banners will have to be displayed for a minimum of 30 days and up to a maximum of 90 days.
“I don’t want to squash it. I don’t want to stop it,” Jeffery told council, adding however a procedure needs to be in place to consider the expense associated with the cost of the Town Public Works staff doing the work and a break-even cost needed to be applied at a suggested rate of $30 per pole. He said in good conditions the process per pole would generally take about 20 minutes, but in adverse weather it takes longer.
However, he said there are obviously organizations, such as the Royal Canadian Legion which flies its veterans’ banners along the main street each November, where council would choose not to charge a fee.
In winding up discussion on the revised policy, Coun. Brad Eamon noted it was “one of the tougher policies this council has been up against.”
He commended administration for the work on the policy revision. “Given the budget at where we are at, I think quite frankly you guys did a really good job of trimming it down and making it as sensible as we can.”