Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Recreation Subsidy Program Exceeds Budget For Second Year

Meaford’s recreation subsidy program has been popular with residents, so popular that it has exceeded the $30,000 budget for the second year in a row. This week, council approved a recommendation to transfer additional funds in order to allow the program to meet the need for the remainder of this year.

The municipality’s recreation subsidy program was launched in 2019, and the Meaford Food Bank & Outreach was enlisted to administer the program, which allows residents of the municipality to apply for a subsidy for a range of recreation activities. In 2021, a Recreation Fund policy was established in order to provide clarity for eligibility, and an updated memorandum of understanding was agreed upon by the Municipality and the Food Bank & Outreach.

The program allows residents of the Municipality with a household income under a defined level to apply for a financial subsidy for a wide range of recreation activities.

In early 2023, the program was updated in order to offer an increased funding cap as well as broadening the eligibility criteria, however the amount budgeted for the program was not increased at that time.

Under the terms of the updated policy, applicants must reside in the Municipality of Meaford and have a before-tax income of less than the most recent Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut-off (LICO) plus an additional $60,000 (previously $40,000) for children, and $30,000 (previously $20,000) for adults 20 and older.

In recognition of inflationary pressures that have seen costs of everything, including recreation activities, increase in recent years, the annual funding cap was increased from $500 to $750 per person for children, and from $250 to $500 per person for adults.

Applicants must contribute 10 percent of the total cost with a minimum contribution of $25 per activity, equipment, or transportation.

At the time, the funding envelope for the program was not increased. Funding for the program has been depleted for 2024. Staff are recommending a transfer from reserves to allow for continued use of the subsidy until the end of 2024,” staff advised council in a report presented at their May 27 meeting.

For the years 2019 through 2022, the subsidy requests were below the $30,000 budget, averaging $21,390 per year, however post-pandemic the subsidy requests have increased significantly, and in 2023, the program paid out $57,169 in subsidies, while as of April 15 of this year, the program has already exceeded the budgeted amount, with $34, 570 in subsidies having been provided.

At Monday’s council meeting, staff recommended a transfer of $12,074.98 from the Well-being reserve to help fund the program for the remainder of the year. Council however amended the recommendation, and instead approved a transfer of $25,000 from reserve.

I knew this was going to happen a year ago,” Councillor Steve Bartley told council. “I agree with doing this, but I don’t think $12,000 is enough, this is May. There’s going to be all kinds of people looking for money for hockey and what not.”

Bartley’s suggestion to increase the transfer recommendation to $25,000 found the support of the remainder of council.

Council will revisit the funding requirements for the program later this year during the 2025 budget deliberations.

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