Town of St. Paul council had a lengthy discussion of their Community Group Funding and Sports Funding Policies at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Feb. 10.
Resolutions related to discussions at Committee of the Whole must be brought forward at a regular council meeting.
The two funding policies dictate how the town will determine support in the form of cash, prizes, or facilities for community groups and sports teams.
Town of St. Paul CAO Kim Heyman said the last discussion had ended on splitting the policy to include criteria for funding operations as well as criteria for funding capital projects.
Coun. Nathan Taylor said he was quite comfortable with a quicker process for requests regarding silent auction items, prizes, and facility rentals provided the applicant is local to St. Paul. Taylor noted if the applicant is from outside the region he felt the request should still come to council.
“But to me, the big ones that just need to come through council for a full discussion are the operational grants and the project grants,” said Taylor.
Coun. Ron Boisvert also liked the suggestion of multiple categories of funding, but wondered if council needed to budget a specific amount for each category, and if the money could easily be transferred between them if needed.
Mayor Maureen Miller said she thought any excess from the budgeted categories should go back into the town’s general funds.
“This is what we budget for a year. And if we don’t use it, it just means we over-budgeted for that year. But we should budget for the money,” said Miller.
She expressed support for operational grants for clubs and societies, but suggested a dollar cap and said the town needs to decide if that figure includes facility donations for events.
Boisvert expressed support for requiring details of a club’s finances prior to approving any operating grants.
Taylor wondered if there should be a threshold under which the financials were not required.
“But if you want more than, for example, $500, we need to see your financials. And then I would put a restriction on saying we will provide a percentage, whether it’s 10 per cent, 15 per cent, or 20 per cent of your organization’s operating expenses,” said Taylor.
He said what he didn’t want was for the Town to be bankrolling 80 per cent of the operating budget for community groups.
A contentious point of debate and discussion is the definition of a sport for a team or event to qualify for funding under the sporting policy.
Taylor said he felt it should be limited to physical activities requiring exertion, skill, and competition. He specifically did not want to include e-sports, sentiments which were echoed by Coun. Gary Ward.
Town of St. Paul CAO Kim Heyman asked if a second category was required for games in order to provide support to things like Senior’s Games and local cribbage tournaments, which currently fall under the sports policy.
Council also discussed different funding approaches to attending and hosting gaming and sporting events. They expressed a desire for teams to apply for funding as early as possible, not after the event had already taken place. They did note, however, that in the case of attending provincials, often the team learns they have qualified mid-week and is off at the competition by that weekend.
A letter from St. Paul Education Board Chair Heather Starosielski was also shared with council. In it, Starosielski said none of the K-12 sports in the schools are funded through provincial education dollars collected as part of the municipal taxes each year.
“These activities largely rely on student fees and fundraising activities and are afforded to all our students regardless of their financial situation. Any possible support from the Town of St. Paul would go directly back to our students in the form of subsidizing costs of tournament registration fees, hotels, travel costs, referee expenses, and food,” said Starosielski.
She noted in addition to the positive impact of sports on the physical and mental well-being of students, the tournaments hosted by the schools have economic benefits for the town in dollars spent at local businesses including restaurants and hotels.
“While we certainly recognize the fact that your contributions would be going to support not only the Town of St. Paul students but rural students as well, please know the County of St. Paul faces a similar dilemma. We recognize this fact and gratefully acknowledge the partnership we have with both the Town and County of St. Paul in making our community so strong. St. Paul Education also plays a role in this partnership by making our grounds and facilities readily available free or at discounted rates,” said Starosielski.
The next draft of the funding policies will be discussed by council at a later date.