By Stephen Vance, Staff
Each year the Municipality of Meaford offers community grants to help support a range of non-profit initiatives, from the Scarecrow Invasion, to the Farmers’ Market, to music festivals, and though council has nearly exhausted the available funds for this year, the requests from community groups for financial support keep coming, and many of the requests (and grants issued) don’t meet the criteria for receipt of a community grant.
On May 25 council was visited by the organizers of the Meaford International Film Festival (MIFF), requesting an additional $3,000 on top of the $2,000 that had already been approved, the Dragons’ Den Meaford organizers seeking an additional $3,000 on top of the $5,000 already approved by council, and the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Georgian Triangle asking for $3,000.
The problem for council is that there is just $5,000 remaining in the $25,000 that was budgeted for community grants in 2015, and $1,000 of that is already committed. In addition to the $25,000 community grant fund, also included in the 2015 budget were sponsorship of MIFF for $2,000, Dragons’ Den Meaford for $5,000, and the Scarecrow Invasion for $3,000.
With just $4,000 remaining in this year’s grant fund, and $9,000 in new requests at a single meeting, council grappled with what to do.
In November of 2013 council was reminded that many of the grants they were approving for 2014 were in fact ineligible.
“Eighty-eight percent ($22,000.00) of available grant funds as identified in the 2014 Tax Supported Operating Budget will be allocated to current 2014 requests despite ineligibility,” staff told council in a November 2013 report.
“The number one reason for non-compliance with the criteria is that most of the groups that applied have come to rely on this fund as a regular source of income,” Director of Community Services Dan Buttineau told council at the time, adding that the intent of the grant fund was to help support local organizations and other events in their first three years, and he said that once they are established they become ineligible for funding.
At this week’s meeting, council was again reminded by staff that the majority of the organizations for which council approved community grants this year should not have received them based on eligibility. CAO Denyse Morrissey noted that staff fully explained the eligibility requirements for the grants, and that council chose to provide grants to ineligible organizations anyway.
“The community grants are supposed to be seed money for new initiatives,” Treasurer Darcy Chapman told council.
For the three requests received at council on May 25, council decided to decline the request from MIFF for additional funding, with Chapman noting that, according to the financial documents submitted by MIFF, this year’s event is projected to have a net profit of more than $20,000. Council granted an additional $2,500 to Dragons’ Den Meaford, and $500 was granted to the Big Brothers Big Sisters.