Community grant requests over $10,000 scrutinized by Smiths Falls council

Smiths Falls Town Council had a special committee of the whole meeting on Monday, Jan. 15 to hear from more than a dozen delegates who were asking for over $10,000 in a community grant. – Laurie Weir screengrab

Community organizations seeking more than $10,000 from the Town of Smiths Falls Community Grants Fund had an opportunity to pitch their cases to council’s special committee of the whole on Monday, Jan. 15.

There are 38 organizations requesting more than $383,000 but only a dozen or so were seeking more than $10,000.

Council heard on Jan. 8 that a one per cent tax hike to pay for these grants would come to $179,000. The allocations are currently $142,605.16, leaving $36,394.84 to support any adjustments to proposed funding recommendations and or additional funding requests throughout the year.

A current funding formula helps staff decide who gets how much when it comes to a grant. The formula is based on mathematics, rather than emotions.

After listening to the 13 delegates who requested more than $10,000, council decided to revisit the formula for next year.
Malcolm Morris, the town’s chief administrative officer, said they listened to the broad diversity of the delegates, hearing from 13 of 38. “We wanted to get some direction on the additional criteria that we’re looking for,” he said.

Julia Crowder, the town’s manager of economic development and tourism, asked if they should they look at the applications’ gross or net expenses.

The calculations shared at the Jan. 8 meeting were based on 50 per cent of the net expenses, Crowder explained.

Coun. Chris McGuire was not a fan of the gross amount minus expense amount, “because some things have more expenses. It doesn’t measure the return. I don’t know that it measures the financial need,” he said. “If we open it up there will be way more demand than there is funding. I’m not sure how to bridge that gap without making it political and coming down to having to decide certain amounts for certain places.”

McGuire said he’d like to see more of an emphasis on start-up and seed funding for things that can become financially stable.

“I look at the social benefit beyond simply the net income factor,” Mayor Shawn Pankow said.

Reading through the applications, he said their revenue is a forecast, not an actual number.

“I’m not a fan of the net model, but at the same time, different organizations bring different value to the community,” Pankow said.

Crowder said looking at a net amount rather than a gross amount will ensure they are not funding surpluses. They would be returning to council “with a bunch more questions and look at the evaluation criteria” to further clarify what and how these organizations will be funded. A new policy will be worked on ahead of next year’s grant requests.

“We’re in this situation because we have more applications than we have money,” Crowder said. “So, we have to make those tough decisions.”

Crowder said she doesn’t want to have to come back to council every year, but to instead have a formula in place where she can offer strong recommendations.

McGuire asked if they could split it into three funding pots – capital, events, and community development.

Morris said he liked McGuire’s approach, “because many times we’re trying to fit square pegs in round holes, and they just don’t fit. We could work on this for next year’s program. All doable, but we have enough to come back with something that will represent a path forward for 2024.”

Key areas include for consideration of community grants include:

  • Community and Social Services
  • Events and Festivals
  • Arts and Culture Education and Programs
  • Environmental Education and Programs
  • Sports and Recreation Activities and Programs

Priority will be placed on projects that are responsive to the needs of a diverse population with emphasis on projects that target underserved and equity-seeking populations; those who are:

  • Living with disabilities,
  • Racialized, newcomers or immigrants,
  • Low incomes earners (including seniors),
  • Children and/or youth.

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