The question of grant funding for 23 different community groups asking for money from the District of Sooke became convoluted Monday when council did not know how much money it had available.
The problem arose when councillors acknowledged that while $90,437 was allocated in the budget for community grant funding, a staff report pointed out the previous council already approved a significant amount of money to many groups as line items in the budget.
This was done without specifying whether the line item funding should be subtracted from this year’s community grants budget, or if they were to be funded separately.
The result was that some councillors were operating with the belief that the full $90,437 was still available while others deducted the initial line items and thought they had about $55,000 to allocate.
There was another school of thought that the amount was actually around $32,000.
“I wouldn’t say that we were floundering, but there was some confusion there,” said Mayor Maja Tait following the meeting.
“Going forward, it’s a good lesson to council that when you make a commitment to funding you have to decide where you’re dedicating it from.”
Coun. Al Beddows, who was experiencing the grant budget process for the first time, agreed it was not a good look for council.
“There was a lot of confusion, and I agree that we should have known how much money we had before we started,” He said.
It was finally decided council would go with a $55,000 pot of money to allocate, and that’s when serious discussions began.
Twenty-three groups that ranged from the Sooke Pickleball group to the Sooke Crisis Centre were up for discussion, although some of the groups applying for funds raised more concerns.
“We have criteria for grants that say that we don’t fund staff costs and we had a couple of applications that were clearly applying for staff money,” Beddows said. “When we accept applications like that it puts us in a tough situation. Do we fund them and break our own guidelines?”
The eclectic nature of the applications was equally challenging.
“The range of applications reflected the dynamic, evolving needs of a diverse community,” said Tait, while acknowledging that it was also difficult to determine if a certain category of application (sports vs. arts, for example) was more worthy than another.
Final grant amounts were:
Pickleball Association – $1,500; Amber Academy – $3,000; EMCS Society – $3,400; Fred Milne Park Society – $3,000; Harmony Project – $5,250; Inter-municipal Advisory Committee on Disability Issues – $200; JDF Park Watch Society – $5,250; KidSport – $3,600; Maritime Museum – not funded; NEED2 Suicide Prevention Education and Support – $1,620; Sooke Community Choir – $2,000; Sooke Crisis Centre – $6,000; Sooke Family Resource Society $5,000; Sooke Festival Society – $2,000; Sooke Food Bank – $6,100; Sooke Harbour Players – $3,000; Sooke Lions – $2,000 (from sponsorship fund); Sooke Minor Fastball – $5,000; Sooke Radio – not funded; Sooke Region Community Health Network – $6,000; Sooke Sailing Association – $2,000; Sooke Shelter Association – $5,250; Steps to the Future Society – not funded.