Thursday, June 13, 2024

Council Rejects a Third Party to Administer Community Grants

By Stephen Vance, Staff

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Two weeks ago, Meaford’s council gave initial approval for revisions to the municipal community grant and event sponsorship policy, along with a partnership with the Community Foundation Grey Bruce to administer the program in order to streamline the process and ensure that organizations requesting funding meet established criteria.

However at their October 26 meeting, Councillor Tony Bell, who had expressed reservations about turning over the grant administration to a third party found enough support among his fellow councillors to reject the partnership.

The partnership proposed by staff would have turned over administration of the annual grant fund to the Community Foundation Grey Bruce in exchange for a five percent administration fee, which would amount to roughly $2,500 each year.

“The Foundation has a long track record in philanthropic and community initiatives. It is a well-respected organization and community builder. The Foundation will be able to administer the Community Grants program with a cost-effective approach, while ensuring that the Municipality of Meaford’s strategic aims are met in a fair, transparent and accountable manner,” said municipal staff in their report to council.

Enlisting a third party to administer the grants would have also eliminated any potential conflicts of interest among members of council, nearly all of whom are involved with many of the community groups which apply for grant funding each year.

Councillor Bell, however, was insistent on council retaining control of the administration of the funds.

“I would like to say that I believe that we should continue with our level of responsibility,” Bell told council. “I would ask my fellow councillors, I have no problem with having a new set of rules, and that we can follow these rules, and we can do it correctly.”

In recent years, council has struggled with finding a balance between enforcing the previously established policy, and finding wiggle room for grant requests that don’t quite meet the criteria. Often the process was excruciating in its banality, and rules were cast aside by council.

Councillors spent 20 minutes at their October 26 meeting tinkering with the wording of the bylaw for the updated community grant policy, including the removal of the provision for a third party administrator.

While councillors voted 4-3 against taking on the Community Foundation Grey Bruce as a partner in administering the fund, staff told council that the $2,500 fee would have been a bargain.

“The intention of partnering with a third party is that they are experts in doing this, they have a process in which it is done, our (staff) perspective is that it is a brute to try and administer for the amount of benefit we get out of it, and the hand holding ahead of time, during the process, and then ensuring that there’s follow-up afterwards, the $2,500 we would have paid is a mega-bargain. Just in the amount of time that staff spends talking about this process has been far in excess of that $2,500,” said Meaford Treasurer Darcy Chapman.

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