City creates new Grants Program

by Joseph Coppolino - EAP
City creates new Grants Program
Clarence-Rockland adopted a new grants and contributions program to ensure transparency and accountability in how discretionary funds are spent at the city. (Photo : file)

During the October 11 meeting of Clarence-Rockland’s municipal council, councillors approved a new grants program suggested to them by the city administration, establishing a “consistent and transparent process” for donations and in-kind contributions to community organizations.

Prior to the new program, the City did not have a standardized approach to receive, consider and approve requests for support from community organizations. In the past, such funding was often left up to a patchwork of policies requiring different criteria including the Cultural Financial Assistance Program, non-profit organizations policy, council discretionary budgets and other “legacy agreements” which have historically been approved year-after-year and are “imbedded into existing budgets.”

Chief Administrative Officer Pierre Voisin said the new policy is a necessary step to “protect all the decisions of the municipality regarding how these funds are allocated.”

The new program is also intended to encourage new initiatives from within the community and is not intended for regular funding. Funds will be available for non-profit groups and in-kind assistance can be provided to publicly funded groups.

The policy establishes a Municipal Grants Review Committee, an independent committee of council with delegated authority to review and approve grants in accordance with this Policy.

During the budget process, funding will be allocated to the various programs and a submission period will be advertised. Only organizations operating within the municipality and working to promote the well-being of Clarence-Rockland residents will be considered. Organizations can submit one application to the committee per year and must include reporting requirements. Unspent funds will be returned to the municipality. The Grants Review Committee will then make it recommendations to council.

In considering applications, the committee will be required to evaluate the availability of the requested resource (financial or in-kind, such as space at a municipal venue), potential financial impact, contribution to the well-being of the community, recognition of a worthwhile cause, overall community impact and any other criteria the Committee deems necessary.

In its report to council, the administration stated that the proposed Grants and Contributions program, with its standardized funding criteria and evaluation requirements, will provide a comprehensive approach to how the city distributes funds.

“It’s a great initiative,” said Councillor Diane Choinière. «It will give residents a better idea of where the funding is going and gives organizations the chance to plan activities in advance, they will have time to prepare and budget and think of the impact they want to have on the community. It will also give us a good image of the contributions, both monetary and in-kind.”

Councillors Trevor Stewart, André J. Lalonde and Samuel Carderelli, though in favour of the policy in theory, believed several changes to the policy would be necessary to ensure the process wasn’t overly restrictive for community organizations or too difficult for the city to approve funding.

Mayor Mario Zanth said he has been asking for a process to streamline the process for discretionary budgets for some time.

“Doing something is better than nothing at this point,” he said. “I understand the concerns around funds and non-profit organizations, but I think it is important to understand that we represent here public funds for all 28,000 citizens and we have to make sure this is transparent and spent accordingly.”

Council voted unanimously to adopt the new program and expects to see updates to the policies in the coming council meetings.

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