Community Grants Requests Get Trimmed

One of the things that happens in Cobourg’s budget is a line item devoted to “Community Grants” – staff recommended $20K plus another $10K for “Contingency Grants During Year” but council ended up approving grants for $33,025 (or was it $37,025?).  The approval came at the end of a long second day reviewing the budget.  The meeting was scheduled to end at 4:00 pm and Mayor Cleveland and Councillor Mutton excused themselves around that time so the meeting continued with a quorum of five.  Before he left, Mayor Cleveland said that he did not approve of any grants at all – although perhaps in-kind grants would be OK – so he did not think he would be needed during the discussion. But let’s look at what happened.

In previous years, there would often be a long discussion as to who would get favoured, but Councillor Burchat had already reviewed the applicants and made a list.  Aaron explained his choices mostly based on his experience with previous Council choices and all Councillors agreed.  Here is the list.

  2023 Approved 2024 Request 2024 Approved
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northumberland  0 5,000 5,000
Canadian Abilities Foundation 1000 0  
Cobourg & District Historical Society 2,000 2,492 2,492
Cobourg Ecology Garden  1,800 2,500 2,500
Cobourg Highland Games  5,000 5,498  
Cobourg Lawn Bowling Club  6,720 3,800 3,800
Cobourg Museum Foundation 0 3,000 3,000
Cobourg Museum Foundation – Property Taxes 4,000 4,000 4,000
Cobourg Toastmasters 1,000 0  
Community Care Northumberland 0 2,500 2,500
Film Access Northumberland (Eye2Eye)  0 2,000  
Green Wood Coalition  0 833 833
Horizon of Friendship 1000 1,500  
La Jeunesse Choirs 1000 0  
Les Amis 1000 0  
Northumberland Hills Stitchery Guild 0 5,000  
Northumberland Hispanic Cultural Club 0 500 500
Northumberland Humane Society  0 2,000  
Northumberland Oral Health Coalition  400 400 400
Northumberland Orchestra 1000 0  
Northumberland Pride  0 15,325  
NSCC #39  0 4,500  
Ontario Community Emergency Assistance Program 1000 0  
Ontario Youth Parliament  0 2,500  
St. Vincent de Paul 1000 0  
SONG 1000 0  
United Way Northumberland 0 1,000  
Victoria Hall Volunteers  5,432 4,000 4,000
Victorian Operetta Society  1,000 3,000 3,000
Northumberland Fare Share Food Bank 5,000 10,000 5,000
TOTAL COMMUNITY GRANTS  40,352 81,348 37,025

Twenty-one organizations asked for a grant ($81,348) but only 12 were approved (Canadian Museum had 2 requests).  In the meeting, Aaron said that the total was $33,025 but my math says $37,025!

An interesting question is why does Mayor Lucas Cleveland not want any Grants at all?  He explained that he believed that all the applicants deserved a grant but he did not think it was appropriate to pick and choose and declare some as favourites. His motion to deny all grants was defeated but he supported an interim motion by Brian Darling to only approve “in-kind” grants.  When approval of grants came up later in the meeting, Aaron’s list took precedence.  Aaron thought that most of those on his list were “in-kind”.

Note that final approval of these grants is scheduled for the Regular Council meeting on January 31 although changes are unlikely.

And stay tuned for a report on the rest of the budget discussion and decisions.  I need a bit of time to sort it all out – hopefully in a day or two.

Resources

Details of grants in previous years

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Geo
1 month ago

Just read the grant budget. Green Wood Coalition is getting $833. Looks like our council members are supporting the homeless camp.

Cobourg taxpayer
1 month ago

The one donation of taxpayer funded money that I can not accept is to Green Wood Coalition. While painting birdhouses may give them great satisfaction they also support illegal drug use, the illegal encampment, tiny homes and other radical bullshit ideas, but not on my dollar.

Eastender
1 month ago

I communicated directly to all Council members (with no reply) about the 2024 budget as well as grants. I stated that there should be a hiatus on grants this year, due to the tough economic situation.I still feel this way. And I also feel
that the Town needs to reduce staff by 10%, end the hire of “students” this summer, and defer park’s maintenance for a year. We could allow a pass on flowers and shrubs in exchange for a ,little belt tightening.

Kathleen
Reply to  Eastender
1 month ago

This! Too bad your suggestions fell on deaf and dumb ears.

Ahewson
Reply to  Eastender
1 month ago

As yes “defer” maintenance. Aka putting things off that ends up costing more in the long run. And no flowers and shrubs? This blog is getting ridiculous. It’s become a tax-fighters echo chamber that gets more ridiculous by the day.

Kathleen
Reply to  Ahewson
1 month ago

Fyi – Our friends from Kingston were aghast when they saw the hundreds of hanginging flower baskets around our Town last summer. They actually asked us if our Town had an unlimited budget and said that Kingston didn’t have half as much flower arrangements as our much smaller town.
Pretty? Absolutely. Expensive? You bet.

Ahewson
Reply to  Kathleen
1 month ago

You say that as if it’s a bad thing. Sounds like the flower baskets left your visitors with a great impression of Cobourg. Job well done to the town and the flower baskets. Would you rather your visitors walked around asking if the place you’ve chosen to live is broke? I don’t get it.

Kathleen
Reply to  Ahewson
1 month ago

And there in lies the reason why our taxes will go up around 8%. People do not want to save on anything.

Ahewson
Reply to  Kathleen
1 month ago

Guess what? I don’t care if they go up 8%. I’d rather they go up more than that to be honest. I’d love if they repaired the piers, provided services that greatly benefit much of the population. I love the flower baskets and anything beautiful the town can provide. This is where I live, I have pride in it, I want it to be the best possible place it can be. Property tax is a drop in the bucket for mine and most people’s budget.

That said, I know people live on a tight budget, I’m very much respectful of that. But you know what people are usually affected the most by cuts? The same people who are tight to their budget. You saw it with Centennial pool. We had residents saying they couldn’t afford to travel so they’d do things like take their kids to the pool, locally. They’d take them to our beach that used to have lifeguards and could feel good about . People who can’t afford a vehicle depend on transit. These examples go on and on. The most vulnerable people depend on services people want to cut. The cuts hurt people,
not help them. In terms of extravagant spending like flower baskets..it’s called town pride. Being proud of the place you live and it to look its best. Your example of out of town residents being mpressed by them brought a smile to face.

All I read on this blog is cut cut cut. Don’t do this don’t do that, town needs to get rid of this and that, no transit, don’t fund any groups, let harbour fall into disrepair, shouldn’t have built the CCC, don’t even plant flowers. What kind of community are we trying to build here?

cornbread
Reply to  Ahewson
1 month ago

Sounds good to you if someone else pays the bills.

Ahewson
Reply to  cornbread
1 month ago

Exactly, cause I don’t pay property tax just the same as everyone else. Now that you mention it though, I probably contribute more than I receive in return. I don’t utilize much town infrastructure or many services.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Ahewson
1 month ago

Ahewson, may I suggest a different approach? We could all pay property taxes for the essentials — road maintenance, snow plowing, storm water, police, etc. Then the caring people, like you, who want the frills — bus service, lifeguards, harbour repairs, additional hanging baskets, etc — can make a donation to the town for funding. Care to guess the amount of voluntary donations?

Ahewson
Reply to  Ken Strauss
1 month ago

I’ve got an even better approach. We don’t pay property tax on anything, including the essentials. Care to guess the amount of voluntary donations?

Ken
Reply to  Ahewson
1 month ago

So you suggest no repairs to our roads? No snow removal from our roads? No police. No fire? No…

Your ridiculous suggestion is not productive.

Kathleen
Reply to  Ahewson
1 month ago

Can I borrow some money? LOL
Btw – Our friends were “aghast” (meaning, shocked) by the amount of hanging backets. It was “way over the top”, they said. I agreed.
As Bryan has mentioned a few times, “Our Town has Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget”.
Maybe if we had of historically had Town Staff and a Town Council that knew how to budget properly, we would have the reserve funds required to repair the community pool and repair the pier with the money the Feds provided them, that miraculously disappeared.

Last edited 1 month ago by Kathleen
ben
Reply to  Kathleen
1 month ago

And how much will you save by cutting community grants 37K out of a 30million budget?

Kathleen
Reply to  ben
1 month ago

Maybe start a reserve fund?

Thank you for your comment. It demonstrates the mindset of our town staff who also have no saving willpower.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Eastender
1 month ago

And Cancel all that Tourism & Promo Expense along with the whole department

We just Made Rebel News Media World wide about Our Crime , Drugs and Homeless Problem . The $$$ money would be better spent cleaning up this Problem .and our Property Values ..
Watch the 20 Minute News article before you comment further on Budgets and spending

small town Ontario
Reply to  Sandpiper
1 month ago

I agree, but I have come to the conclusion that our elected officials, municipal, provincial and federal just don’t give a dam. If they did they would work together to find real solutions. Not happening around their homes, or where their children go to school. Comments like it is unfortunate and they need help does not cut it for me anymore.
A grant for GWC from my tax dollars, I am disgusted.
As John noted in this blog about the council meeting, Burchat reviewed applications and put the list together, he said mostly based on previous years choices, yet GWC has not been on the list since 2020 when $2000 was approved.

https://todaysnorthumberland.ca/2024/01/19/minors-welcome-to-attend-unsanctioned-overdose-prevention-site-in-cobourg/

Leaving this unsanctioned site, and the illegal encampment set up tells me that it is OK with elected officials.

Dave
1 month ago

In viewing the list some are more of a social services category and therefore I feel some are misplaced in any form of grants from Cobourg Council. As for many of the others Cobourg is both a tourist town and a community which in the past has been comprised of families and long term citizens of many years. I believe community based and town promotion activities are a fabric of life here.

The social services categories should be listed to the County who can review their budgets and decide if further funding is required or needs to be cut.

Otherwise – Cobourg – The Feel Good Tourist Town, come visit and do nothing! For the residents there is a growing contingent of fast food restaurants where you can wile away the hours instead of the opportunity for a community based program.

“I don’t believe in anything but in kind grants. I shall depart.” Hmm

Rob
1 month ago

In general I agree with the list of approved recipients. Council knocked-off the small amounts quite easily and declined a number of very significant requests – i.e. Northumberland Pride swinging for the fences with a request for more than $15,000 – curious to understand how they planned to use it. I think GWC should immediately be denied all future grants given their involvement with the drug infested encampment(s) and the illegal drug consumption tents. Through their support, they have propped up three encampment locations which lead to a shooting on our beach near children and families, harassment of County employees, increases in community violence, thefts and crime against taxpayer property, including trespass. This should disqualify them from any Cobourg taxpayer funded grant no matter how small.

Burchat doesn’t agree with this statement.

Bryan
Reply to  Rob
1 month ago

Rob,

Burchat, as an elected council member, is mandated by the municipal act to represent Cobourg’s
residents. His personal belief should not be relevant

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Bryan
1 month ago

Bryan, suporting GWC clearly demonstrates that Aaron’s personal beliefs are more important then the interests of law abiding Cobourg residents.

Silverhairedsenior senior
1 month ago

I’m sorry to see that the Foodbank did not receive an increase in its grant, as requested. It’s widely known that usage has increased greatly in our current economic situation.

Grants given to home renovators in questionable situations such as realtors is a much greater concern to me

Last edited 1 month ago by Silverhairedsenior senior
Kathleen
Reply to  Silverhairedsenior senior
1 month ago

These types of comments are exactly the reason Community Grants should be eliminated.
There is too much discourse surrounding Council’s PERSONAL decisions.

Kathleen
1 month ago

I do not recall the specific details surrounding the event but I do remember there being a brief discussion on Council a couple of years ago about eliminating the Community Grants altogether. I can only imagine that the subject was brought up by, in my opinion, the only smart, fiscally responsible person on Council since I moved here 8 years ago – Suzanne Seguin. But I digress. The current Mayor has also tried, in vain, to suggest that both Town Staff and Council rein in spending to no avail.  

The number one problem I personally have with Community Grants is that, as ‘Carol’ correctly pointed out, the total sum of all the paltry Community Grants handed out indeed could cover (at least a part-time) employee’s salary.  OK, I’ll vote for that. Let’s put the money toward hiring a Budget Chief on behalf of the Taxpayer because we obviously can’t rely on any current Town Staff or Town Council to save us any money.

As my mother used to say, “Look after your pennies and the dollars will look after themselves”. 

I also agree 100% with Bryan. Why is Greenwood Coalition on the list?  Not only is Council devoid of fiscal responsibility, they are also devoid of discretion. GWC is a very contentious organization among people in this Town.

Charity is a personal choice. From the sound of it, this is Aaron’s personal list choice and it sounds like the rest of quorum went along with it to end the meeting.

Bryan
Reply to  Kathleen
1 month ago

Kathleen,
Budget Chief?
Would still be a staff member reporting to the CAO or the CFO.
Others have suggested an Auditor General, reporting to Council. Broader scope than a Budget Chief and reporting to Council who are supposed to represent the residents.
I prefer the AG model.

Kathleen
Reply to  Bryan
1 month ago

Bryan, Sure, I’ll go for any position that will act on behalf of the taxpayer and rein in spending. Cause what we have now ain’t working.

Carol
1 month ago

I am sick and tired of hammering all the volunteer groups that make up our community. Eliminate one person at town hall and their salary would cover all these grant requests. The mayor feels we need more professionals in our corporation well I personally want to see these volunteer groups survive. We have already lost the Highland Games over the parking. What more will we lose because we were not able to support them

small town Ontario
Reply to  Carol
1 month ago

https://www.northumberlandnews.com/opinion/editorials/highland-games-deserved-loan/article_4f525c25-54d8-537e-a932-4ef17c194bca.html

Carol, I remember back in 2007, read link, Cobourg Council approved a Taxpayer funded loan to help the Highland Games continue to operate. Of course it had to be paid back, however, a few years later they came before council again requesting an additional loan. It was turned down, why, because they only made one payment on the first taxpayer funded loan. Was it ever paid back, I would like the answer to that question.
Here in 2024 they are asking for a grant from the Cobourg taxpayers.
Yes the taxpayers of this town have supported the Highland Games for years.
I was flabbergasted, is this how our finance dept. manages our money? Leave the lending to the banks!!
I am a volunteer in this community, have been for years, I don’t feel hammered.
I gladly give of my time, but it is important to me that whoever manages the contributions need to be responsible for the dollars and cents.

Bryan
1 month ago

John,

Based on the 2023 approved grants, the following 2024 grants are in-kind:
Cobourg & District Historical Society $2,492
Cobourg Lawn Bowling Club 3,800
Victoria Hall Volunteers 4,000
Victorian Operetta Society 3,000

In-kind total $13,292

Cobourg Museum Foundation – Property Taxes $4,000 Based on 2023, this is a cash grant. I don’t see the difference between “free” parking passes for the Lawn Bowling Club and PT “forgiveness” for the Museum. In both cases, the Town is giving up revenue (cash in)

This would make the in-kind grant total $17,292, almost half of the approved grants.

In-kind grants typically involves the waiver of a fee such as parking passes, room rental or property taxes. In such cases, the Town is foregoing revenue. How is this different in a financial context to giving a cash grant (cash out, expense). In each case, the Town is out some cash (either paid out or not collected). For me there is no distinction. A grant is a grant.

I am surprised that Greenwood Coalition’s request for $833 was approved, given their association with the encampments and some drug related projects.

I also wonder why the Northumberland Art Gallery is treated like a Town department and provided with $150K+ in the budget instead of going through the grants process.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bryan
Leona Woods
Reply to  Bryan
1 month ago

If room rentals in Victoria Hall were at capacity, then I would see the grant as a loss of revenue for the town. However, in reality the Concert Hall, and the meeting rooms are not used much of the time and sit idle. The organizations requesting use of these rooms “in kind” are registered charities for the most part, and this allows them to meet etc. I support In kind grants

Bryan
Reply to  Leona Woods
1 month ago

Leona Woods,
My purpose was to identify the “in-kind grants” and suggest that the reason in-kind grants appear to be favored over cash grants is based on the flawed notion that in-kind grants cost the Town less. In my view, in-kind cost the Town just the same as cash grants

The grants should be evaluated on their merits, not a flawed perception of the cost to the Town. A grant is a grant in financial terms.

You suggest that the meeting rooms and concert hall are not used much. Perhaps they should be used for more productive purposes such as staff offices instead of locating staff in other locations and perhaps in rented space

Last edited 1 month ago by Bryan
Diane Chin
Reply to  Bryan
1 month ago

Bryan,
Are you suggesting that the concert hall be turned into office space?
That is one of the areas used by the groups. Weddings and concerts do not tend to occur on Monday and Tuesday nights when these groups use the facilities. The Victoria Hall Volunteers use these spaces to meet and plan fundraisers for the hall to help defray maintenance costs. Since this group’s inception in the 80’s close to half a million dollars has been raised by this group.

Bryan
Reply to  Diane Chin
1 month ago

Diane chin,

Leona Woods suggested that the VCH was not used much. I simply suggested that if that is the case, the space could be more productively used for other purposes.

Dubious
Reply to  Bryan
1 month ago

A good temporary use of the Concert Hall would be to discuss severance pay with redundant staff. A large room is required!