Groups express concern over suspended grants

KCIP has provided community groups with as much as $45,000 in annual funding for programs and activities

Kenneth Brown
of The Clarion

The suspension of a local grant program means community groups will not be able to access roughly $40,000 in funding for 2018. Concerns are being expressed.

Town council members passed a resolution at a meeting on March 26 to suspend the Kindersley Community Initiatives Program (KCIP) for at least one year. Funding for the KCIP grant came from Saskatchewan Lotteries. The Town of Kindersley administers the grant program.

The KCIP grant has provided community groups with as much as $45,000 in annual funding for programs and activities. The town has always accessed a portion of the funds to purchase its fireworks for Canada Day among other items.

Groups like the air cadets will have to go without the KCIP grant this year.

However, the remaining KCIP funds have been split up among applicants for the past 14 years. A total of $506,700 has been awarded through the grant since 2004 and $113,960 has gone to the town to support its programs and activities. The town has accessed approximately 22 per cent of the funds.

The program is meant to promote community participation in recreation, culture and sport activities. Special consideration is given to groups with programs that encourage participation by under-represented populations in the community.

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A total of 19 community groups including the town received a portion of the $45,154 in KCIP funding in 2017. The amount of funds a municipality is allotted by Saskatchewan Lotteries is based on population. The town submits its population and part of the RM of Kindersley’s population to determine its allotment of funding.

Patty Brotzell-Close, the vice-chairperson for NRC Management Inc., submitted a letter to town officials stating her concerns regarding council’s decision to suspend the grant program. The letter questions the town’s choice of direction for the funds.

In the letter, she states the intended purpose of the town’s KCIP funding and she writes that she does not believe completing the Wall of Champions at the West Central Events Centre or the aquatic centre grand opening are suitable activities for the funding because they are projects – not activities.

The letter also recognizes a concern due to the lack of consultation with groups affected by the decision to redirect the funding. There is a lot of competition for fundraising dollars and the groups have lost a grant opportunity.

Brotzell-Close said in an interview that she has been involved with arts and culture groups as well as sports groups in the past, so she knows that funding available for recreation and sports groups tends to be more common than funding for arts and culture groups.

She noted that KCIP funding has enabled groups to bring several new activities to the community including a bike rodeo to help teach children the proper way to operate a bike on roads. The intent of the program has been ignored in her opinion.

“I don’t think they honoured the process at all in this,” Brotzell-Close said of town council. “There’s a process that has been defined and developed for a reason and to have something just turned around and yanked without any consultation or process involved was a huge shock.”

Funding from the KCIP grant has gone to support approximately 70 groups including the town over the program’s 14-year history. Several recipients such as minor sports groups have been accessing the funding for several years while other groups have only accessed the funding in recent years.

The 365 Lloyd “Sparky” Ament Air Cadet Squadron has received KCIP funding since 2016. The group has received $3,142 from the program over two years. Captain Danit Vass, the squadron’s commanding officer, said the funding is important for the group.

Vass said the Air Cadets program is free for cadets and it is a different type of program available to youth in the community. The Department of National Defence does provide uniforms and a small operating grant to the squadron, but all other funding is from grants or fundraising, she said. The group’s fundraising includes a monthly bingo, but the loss of the grant means the group must raise an extra $1,500.

The Kindersley Playschool has received more than $11,000 in KCIP funding since 2011. Roxanne Atkinson, a teacher and former board member for the playschool, said the grant funding has been useful for the group because it has “enabled us to keep our costs low.”

Atkinson, who fills out the application, said the playschool has been able to purchase items such as a new play structure for toddlers with the grant money, along with other equipment. She noted that the group will have to avoid large purchases without the grant, so she hopes KCIP funding is available again in the future.

Kathy Strutt, a member of the Kindersley & District Arts Council, said she was personally “very disappointed” by the decision to suspend the program. The arts council has received more than $20,000 from the program, so it helps.

“It’s such a big help for us,” she said of the grant, adding the money is used to help with advertising costs and the organization does not include the revenue in its budget because it is not guaranteed. “It’s a big part that we have come to rely on as a way of trying to add programming to the community.”

The loss of the grant also affects sports associations. Sharleen Gilmour, co-president of the Kindersley Skating Club, said the club relies on the KCIP funding for its spring and fall skating schools. She said the schools are separate from the club’s regular programming.

Gilmour said the club will have to consider its options for its next fall and spring schools. She referred to options such as increasing fees, cancelling the schools or soaking up the costs for a year with hopes the KCIP grant will be reinstated.

Chad Miller, the president of Kindersley Minor Ball, said the loss of the grant is not good for the association, but he is happy to see the grant money being used for the long-awaited Wall of Champions. He noted that the display has been missing since the Exhibition Stadium fire in 2010, so he would like to see the display completed and he hopes the KCIP program is reinstated for groups in 2019.

Mayor Rod Perkins said council members discussed Brotzell-Close’s letter in a private, in-camera session of council. Every revenue and expenditure has to be included in the budget, so the town is accessing the funds for a much needed project and the KCIP program is expected to be fully restored next year, he explained.

“That wall of fame has been a work in progress since the rink burned down, and nothing has been done,” he said, noting that the town is taking the funding for one year to complete the project. “It’s not a ‘we’re taking it from now on’ situation. It’s a one-year deal.”

Perkins said the town does not have room in its budget to account for the $30,000 to complete the Wall of Champions, so the lotteries funding was an option. The option was discussed as part of the budgeting process, the mayor said.

He stressed that the town cannot leave a project hanging like has been the case with the Wall of Champions. The rest of the $45,000 would be used for fireworks and costs related to the grand opening of the aquatic centre. Perkins added that council is doing its best to avoid tax increases as a result of its budget pressures, and the town has no intention of “scooping that grant on a yearly basis.”

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