Strathcona County Council Priority Funding

Priority funds have been used as vote getters by politicians for as long as the program has existed. When I joined Strathcona County's Council in 2007, priority funds had absolutely no method of accountability. There were no regulations. No letter of request was required. No follow up or accountability process was utilized for the expenditure of over a quarter a million dollars a year.

I was told that no requests had been denied prior to late 2007 and that a rubber stamp approval was the expectation. I considered this to be a lack of accountability. When no Council action was forthcoming I formed a resident advisory committee to create an accountability process. The taxpayers became partners in making these important spending decisions that helped Ward 2 carry out projects that addressed Strathcona County's social, economic and environmental sustainability issues.

Residents put together a comprehensive list of guidelines that included:

-        Funds would be available on an incremental basis for Ward specific projects .

-        Requests have a $10,000 cap.

-        Applicants must leverage neighbourhood resources to match funding.

-        Emphasis is on neighbourhood self-help and capacity building.

-        All successful candidates must submit a report that described the completed project and verify expenditures.

In August of 2012 council approved a new policy called “Council Priority Fund Expenditures.”  However, this has yet to solve the issues. For example, the policy states that “Council priority funds will not be used: (b) for events that in any fashion are held outside Strathcona County. On March 26, Council approved $3,000 expenditure from Councillor Gariepy’s priority fund to support a charity golf tournament held at Millwoods Golf Club (14.21-Council Meeting Minutes-03/26/2013). At that same meeting Council also approved $10,000 expenditure to provide financial support to YESS (Youth Empowerment & Support Services). The motion was brought forward by Councillor Wlodarczak on behalf of Mayor Osinchuk who was absent at the meeting (14.24-Council Meeting Minutes-03/26/2013). The fund expenditure policy states that “Council priority funds shall only be used for events and/or goods that will occur/be spent within Strathcona County.”

Both of these examples represent fantastic charities and services, however Council policy was not followed.

I was not able to support either of these motions. 

I believe the current Priority Funding system is NOT accountable, and creates more issues than solutions. If we are to continue having priority funds they must be managed by the public.

I again propose the proven Ward 2 model. Resident committee leadership in making recommendations on which projects merit funding is essential to the success of community building and wise use of tax payers money.

Priority funds must be removed from the budget until a more accountable way of managing the funds is agreed upon by Council. 

--- Roxanne Carr

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