Two city councillors warned back in March that changes to the way non-profits are funded could have serious consequences for those groups.
Turns out they were right.
The new funding policy was put into practice at Monday’s council meeting, and the impacts were evident.
In March, council acknowledged there might be some “growing pains” resulting from the change, which happened ostensibly for the sake of transparency but without any consultation with the non-profits it would affect. At the time, councillors were told the city didn’t know how the policy change would impact organizations, beyond funding going “slightly up” for some and “slightly down” for others.
Coun. Ken MacKay declared that the changes would result in “unintended consequences.”
“I believe strongly we need to engage on these impacted groups first,” MacKay said at the time, with Coun. Sheena Hughes in agreement.
Looking at the numbers that were approved Monday, March’s characterization of the potential impacts was a vast understatement.
The proof is in the numbers: in 2018, the St. Albert Bereavement Fellowship received $9,000. Councillors heard in March that organization could see a decrease of a couple thousand dollars under the new program; in reality, they got a nearly 40-per-cent cut to $5,472. Likewise, the St. Albert Housing Society ended up with a 42-per-cent cut to its grant; the St. Albert Community Information and Volunteer Centre’s grant was slashed by 43 per cent; and the Visual Arts Studio Association saw its grant cut by 45 per cent.
These are significant and daunting cuts which resulted from an irresponsible and uninformed council decision in March. For a council that expressed some discomfort with the changes before it even saw the vast cuts some organizations would receive, discussion on Monday was surprisingly lacking, although several councillors offered platitudes to the community services advisory committee for the work they put into this year’s funding recommendations (there is no doubt that committee, as with all city committees, works hard to achieve its mandate).
There are some pluses to the new program, which allowed some organizations such as St. Albert Victim Services to apply for more money than prior years. Grants are also now available to more organizations than before, although that particular change could have been made without resorting to crippling cuts to other organizations that provide much-needed services.
MacKay and Hughes were the only ones on Monday to again express concern about how the funding changes might affect organizations.
“I am concerned that we are having an impact on some core service needs and we will maybe need to revisit some of the formulas or look at some other new sources of help and support for these agencies,” said MacKay.
Council should make that a priority. Unfortunately, in the meantime, the agencies in question will suffer.
While the way St. Albert funds organizations might be more transparent now, a city that slashes funding to some of its non-profits is a poorer city indeed.