Social programs see $700K funding approved

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FCSS FUNDING

Family Life Education Program: $198,136
SAIF Education Program: $66,509
Community Liaison Program: $97,500
Senior Support Program: $121,000
Sidekicks Program: $45,277
Information and Referral Program: $80,932
Volunteer Centre Program: $91,003

Seven social programs in St. Albert will receive a combined $699,000 in 2018 but councillors pushed back on Monday against a perceived rubber-stamping of program grants.

Under the umbrella of Family and Community Social Services (FCSS), the funding will go to programs providing support for parents, education and skill development for school-aged youth and senior supports, among others. The funding represents a $9,857 increase from 2017.

Councillors approved the funding on Monday after hearing from city staff that the city will be doing a needs assessment in 2018, which will help determine how much funding the programs will receive in the future.

Coun. Natalie Joly said she has always struggled with the grant funding because councillors look at the programs in isolation from the organizations that offer the programs. Those organizations often receive other grants from the city as well.

“In a lot of ways, we’ve been rubber-stamping these grants for 10, 20 years without really looking at the needs of the community to make sure they are still fulfilling a need,” she said.

“Right now, we are really not being transparent as far as the funding that we’re providing. It’s really confusing for residents when they try to figure out where we’re spending our money, and that’s unfair.”

FCSS director Scott Rodda said the city has already begun a needs assessment of program funding and has reached out to more than 100 service providers so far. Later this month, the city will put out a call to all user groups that receive services.

“We’re hoping to hear back from 250 to 300 users,” he said.

The city will also survey around 500 residents from across the age spectrum. In mid-to late-January, that process will lead to the development of the needs assessment.

Coun. Ken MacKay said the city currently provides more than it is required to for FCSS programming. FCSS programs are jointly funded from the province and municipality, with the province supplying 80 per cent of funds and the city providing 20 per cent.

On Monday, councillors heard St. Albert is currently topping up their portion of funding to 35 or 36 per cent.

“Whether council chooses to go more or less (than 20 per cent) is council’s decision,” Rodda said.

MacKay said council needs to decide if the city can continue to afford that extra money.

“It’s a fact that maybe we’re asked to do a little bit more than we’re required to, but at the same time realizing that sooner or later we need to look at developing our system to make sure we’re using those dollars as effectively as possible,” he said.

“We realize the importance of these programs but we’re going to have to start looking at a different way of developing them.”

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April Hudson