Concerned about unsustainable funding going towards community organizations in the region, Clarence-Rockland Mayor Mario Zanth is preparing to suggest major shake-ups to rein in spending at United Council of Prescott-Russell (UCPR).
During the budget approval process at the UCPR meeting on November 22, Zanth voiced his concern over the amount of money being diverted from the core functions of the upper-tier municipality towards fundraising for community organizations and non-profits in the region.
“I cannot see a way forward in continuing to donate money to non-profit organizations,” said Zanth during the meeting, highlighting that supporting the organization may go beyond the mandate of the UCPR. “We should be helping them go towards where funding is available, whether it is at the province or the federal government, the municipalities if they have grants and contributions committees, local organizations like the Lions clubs and Optimist clubs.”
“I just don’t think this is the place to continuously donate to non-profit organizations.”
In the UCPR’s 2024 budget, nearly $800,000 is earmarked for community organizations and non-profits, including the Counties’ Community Positivity Fund which allocates $50,000 to each lower-tier municipality to be used for community activities, leaving just over $300,000 going to other causes.
With social and affordable housing concerns top of mind, Zanth believes that money can be better spent elsewhere to serve the communities of the UCPR.
Instead, Zanth sees the UCPR’s role as the funder “of last resort,” after options from the federal government, province and individual municipalities have been exhausted.
Part of Zanth’s concerns revolve around the municipalities increased taxation to cover ever-increasing budgets, while the province and federal government continue to reduce their support to the municipalities.
“Any services that support agriculture, arts, or autism, I am all for it,” said Zanth. “But it is not sustainable to continue raising taxes to provide support for nonprofit organizations.”
“We keep raising our taxes, but the feds and the province aren’t, and they just keep downloading and downloading and at some point, something is going to crack.”
Both Casselman Mayor Genevieve Lajoie and Champlain Township and UCPR warden Norman Riopel expressed their support to work towards pushing the provincial and federal governments to do more for community organizations at a municipal level.
Strategy Needed to Move Forward
Zanth said the UCPR needs a strategy that is aligned with that of the lower-tier municipalities, defining the role and vision of the UCPR and how it aims to serve citizens.
“We can think outside the box, we can have different initiatives,” he said. “But we have to focus on what is the purpose of UCPR and that isn’t supporting non-profits with money that could be better spent on infrastructure, housing and other issues. »
Regardless of his concerns, Zanth supported the 2024 budget to allow for a transition period from their current mode of operating, but warned the council to expect motions coming from him intended on refocusing the UCPR’s spending.