Sooke council eyes changes to community grants program

The move follows a change in the district’s committee structure

Sooke council is considering a plan to merge or simplify its community grant program.

The move follows a change in the district’s committee structure, where Mayor Maja Tait reduced the number of committees from five to one.

“I see this as a way of streamlining it and making it easier for all our community groups to present to council and have that dialogue right then and there,” said Coun. Bev Berger.

As it’s set up, residents present to the grant committee, the grant committee deliberates back and forth, then it goes before council. Those community groups then have to come to council again to clarify any questions that may arise.

There are also two types of grants, which means two different application dates and grant cycles, district corporate officer Gabriel Joseph told council last week.

Municipal grants for community groups is not intended to be indefinite, he added.

“Some grant recipients have received grants for more than 10 years, some to the tune of $50,000 or $70,000,” Joseph told council. “Not saying that any of those organizations should not have received that money, but your process is incongruent with your policy.”

Joseph suggested that if council would go through and be the sole reviewer, there would be one time when everybody comes to council, present for five minutes, then council would make a decision.

Coun. Brenda Parkinson said having an arts committee separated from the “needy type groups” such as the Sooke Food Bank and Sooke Christmas Bureau would still be a better alternative.

“Coun. [Rick] Kasper made the motion that all art grants go to the arts committee, so I would like to see the two be separated,” she said.

Both Parkinson and Joseph noted regular groups, such as the Sooke Fine Arts Society and Sooke Philharmonic, could also become part of the annual budget.

“After you reach a point about 10 years, it’s not a community grant anymore, it becomes a part of the budget process,” Joseph said.

Still, staff and council want to keep a better track of where and to whom the money is going, noted Coun. Rick Kasper.

“I’m not begrudging it. I think it’s all worthwhile, but it’s a lot of money to consider,” he said, adding other community groups should be considered too, not just the regulars.

“It’s also for us to get the word out to groups who never applied for money or maybe don’t know that there’s funding available.”