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City to keep close eye on grants

Kamloops city council is calling for more oversight of the groups it funds through service agreements as it begins discussion of the 2013 municipal budget.

That could include organizations like Venture Kamloops and the Kamloops Art Gallery, or other groups that receive large chunks of cash for operating expenses.

In a budget workshop on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Coun. Nelly Dever said she wants to see those type of groups encouraged to build budgets from scratch, rather than rolling over numbers from previous years without examining whether those funds are still required.

The suggestion comes after city CAO David Trawin told council city staff have changed some of their own policies for constructing the annual budget during the past two years and are now building the city’s capital-projects budget for Kamloops from zero.

“What we’ve seen is better prioritization of projects. We also don’t bite off more than we can chew,” said Trawin of the budget building so far.

It’s a process Dever would like to see other organizations getting city cash following.

“We should review the amount of money we give them every year,” she said. “Not, ‘We gave you $50,000 last year, we’re going to give you $50,000 this year.’”

While several other councillors offered some support for the idea, Mayor Peter Milobar urged council to make sure they were serious about a review, which he said could cause panic for some of the agencies getting grants from the city.

“I just worry that if we’re not really serious about making those cuts, it’s a good conversation to have, but it’s going to cause a whole bunch of unrest for a whole bunch of groups and organizations,” he said.

Rather than launch a full-scale review, Coun. Ken Christian suggested the city randomly select a couple of organizations receiving larger grants from the city and take a look at their “fiscal accountability.”

While agreements between the city and the organizations it funds are already overseen by Kamloops’ service-agreement committee, which, Christian said, does its own rigorous vetting, he thinks the extra review would provide better transparency for taxpayers.

“We need to be able to show the public there is some degree of oversight and scrutiny,” he said.

Coun. Marg Spina also backed the suggestion.

“If we just pick two at random and go forward with that, that’s fair,” she said.

 

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