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St. Albert council mulls more dough for non-profits

Review of outside agency grant program suggests no budget increase; committee recommends council top up program $80,000
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St. Albert Place
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

Non-profits in St. Albert could have a little more financial help from the city next year.

After seeing the results of changes made to a major city grant program through one full funding cycle, a committee of city council on Monday voted to recommend council increase the pot of money available to outside agencies by $1.20 per capita.

Coun. Sheena Hughes made the move, speaking about how much outside agencies “dramatically” improve the quality of life for St. Albert residents.

In 2018, city council approved changes to the outside agency grant program, which transitioned from only allowing application from a select group of organizations to opening up the program to all eligible organizations.

Since amending the program, three new organizations have received funding, including Stop Abuse in Families (SAIF), Family Resource Centre and Further Education.

While more non-profits are now eligible for the grant, the pot of money available only increased by $14,000 to $594,700 in 2019. Some organizations faced an uncertain future after experiencing cuts of up to 45-per-cent, such as the Visual Arts Studio Association.

Not all organizations that saw their funding cut were concerned with the changes, however, and some – including the Food Bank – were happy to see the process become more transparent.

City council requested a review of the program be conducted after a full funding cycle had been complete.

Hughes’ motion contradicted administration’s recommendation that no changes be made to the program. City staff argued the new program has successfully brought transparency and fairness, and did not suggest increasing its budget.

But Hughes wanted to see the pot reflect the requests from eligible groups, which the program was $80,000 shy of in 2020 allocations.

“The outside agencies improve the quality of life for our residents dramatically, and they do it in a very cost-effective manner,” she said. “Yeah we do ... have a gold standard – or a higher standard of support for outside organizations – but we also do have a higher standard of living in St. Albert.”

Coun. Natalie Joly opposed the motion, saying the recommendation to leave the program as-is from city staff and the committee that allocated the grants “speak for themselves.”

“At this time, this would really be going away from that attempt to have a transparent and accountable process,” she said.

Coun. Ken MacKay voted in favour, saying he felt at the time of the program changes there was a “real lack of consultation” with involved agencies.

“I understand both of the arguments, but I don’t think for this recommendation we lose anything by moving it forward into council, where we could have a little bit more information from a backgrounder that will then allow us then to make a decision when it comes back in March.”

Representatives from the St. Albert Community Village, VASA and the Housing Society spoke to committee about the program.


Hannah Lawson

About the Author: Hannah Lawson

Hannah Lawson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2019 after working as editor of the Athabasca Advocate. She writes about city hall.
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