Each year, community organizations, local clubs, charities and special events of all kinds make their submissions to the town for municipal grant funding, and at a meeting of Prescott's committee of the whole Monday night, staff presented a report on who was getting how much.
This year's budget for the Community Grants was $58,000, and a working group made up of three councillors decided on how to best distribute the money. Applicants made submissions outlining their need and indicating how much money they were requesting. After the working group had reviewed all the submissions, $47,600 was handed out to 12 different applicants.
This year, the process also included applications for in-kind contributions, not of money but of equipment, space or services to be provided by the town. Three different organizations - St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival, Fort Town Night Run and Girls Incorporated. made such requests - for various things, including rental of the community centre, access to bathrooms at the marina and the use of town personnel. All but two of the 17 separate in-kind requests by the three groups were granted.
Among those groups asking for financial assistance, there was only one new applicant - the Volunteer Centre of St. Lawrence-Rideau, which requested $3000 in support of its Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, which provides tax preparation services free of charge to those in the community of lesser means.
This application yielded some discussion at Monday's night's meeting. The application had also been a subject of debate in the working group. Though the service is provided at locations around Prescott, there was some confusion about exactly how many town residents actually use the service. There was also some concern voiced that the town would be subsidizing a service that might compete with local businesses doing similar work.
The working group had decided to grant a third of the funds requested and recommended giving the Volunteer Center $1000 in support of the tax preparation program. Mayor Brett Todd was still uncomfortable with the idea and suggested that the grant to the Volunteer Centre be voted on separately from all the rest, before changing his mind and acknowledging that the organization does good work, agreeing to support the $1000 grant.
Councillor Leanne Burton agreed, suggesting that it would be reasonable to at least grant part of the organization's first-ever request and see how it works out.
This year's other recipients include South Grenville Food Bank, King's Kitchen, Prescott Minor Soccer, Prescott Figure Skating Club, South Grenville Minor Hockey, Connect Youth, Girls Incorporated, St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival, Light Up the Night parade, Spirit of Giving, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church and the Grenville County Historical Society.
This leaves $10,400 unallocated. However, there are always additional requests over the course of the year, and the extra funds will give council an opportunity to consider helping out more local organizations. More than that, the town is also introducing a second application period later this spring, when additional grant applications will be accepted.
That will also give organizations that are requesting funding for events later in the calendar a chance to make their pitch nearer the time the money is required. There were also a couple of applicants who were denied a grant or denied the full amount of their request. The application by the Prescott Zombie Walk will be reconsidered at the next submission period, and the application by the South Grenville Food Bank, which requested $4,000 and received $3,000, will also be reviewed later this spring.
There was also some talk about the Prescott Youth Centre, which had requested grants in previous years, but which has recently shut its doors.
Mayor Brett Todd pointed out that while the details haven't been worked out, there are efforts to introduce new youth services in town. One of the plans has Prescott partnering with the YMCA, and there have been recent discussions with variety of service providers.
"We've got some really promising developments," he said.
The mayor also agreed with his colleague, Councillor Lee McConnell, that the next time staff presents the report on the community grant allocations, it might be helpful if dollar values were assigned to the in-kind grants, so that council can get an idea of just how much such donations are costing the town.
The mayor pointed to the numerous in-kind requests made by and granted to the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival this year, and while expressing his support of aiding the Festival in this way, he said it was important for the public to know just how much support the town gives the organization.