Nelson will try to divvy its Columbia Basin Trust funding equally this year between the four “pillars” of its sustainability strategy.
Council has agreed to set a “soft target” of allocating 25 per cent to projects in each of the categories of environment, social, culture, and economy, as set out in its Path to 2040 document.
The city has about $126,000 to give out in annual community initiative funding. For the last few years, 35 per cent has been set aside for the cultural sector, with applications adjudicated by an independent panel whose recommendations are passed on to the Cultural Development Committee and then city council for approval. Now the intention is to split the funding evenly four ways, with culture’s share slightly reduced.
“This is an excellent move,” said councillor Janice Morrison. “It’s never going to be [exactly] 25-25-25-25, but I can definitely support it.”
City manager Kevin Cormack said the cultural sector’s share last year was “far in excess” of 35 per cent. “When we went through the process, some on council actually allocated more to the cultural sector because they became quite strong applicants.”
He said the new targets are intended to encourage applications in all four areas, but council shouldn’t approve weak proposals simply to fill a quota. He also acknowledged some applicants might fit more than one category. “Some would probably tick a couple categories, and it would be great if they ticked all four.”
A staff report suggests the process is an “ideal opportunity” to keep some of the city’s planning initiatives alive and encourage the community to become familiar with those documents and work toward the goals and recommendations set out in them. The application form asks applicants to “demonstrate alignment” between their projects and the city’s sustainability strategy.
Councillor Anna Purcell said while the planning documents were all community-driven, she’s nervous about favouring projects based on their ties to municipal priorities. “Whatever comes into our amazing citizens’ creative noodles should be taken seriously, without having to buy into what we’re doing,” she said.
At Purcell’s suggestion, the city will look at striking a committee to review the non-cultural applications and make recommendations to council. However, if adopted that won’t take effect until next year.
Cultural Development Committee chair Stephanie Fischer said she was not concerned about the cultural sector’s allotment potentially dropping by ten per cent. “The city has been generous giving us 35 per cent. We have done some capacity building within the sector,” she said. “We always have to go through a year and see how it all plays out.”
Fischer said cultural applications will continue to be reviewed by an independent jury. However, after making recommendations on who should be funded, they will also compile a second list in case funding is left over due to a lack of applicants from other sectors.
She encouraged cultural groups to continue to apply as before. Last year the funding requested was four times the amount available. “That shows there’s a real need,” Fischer said.
The deadline for applications is March 2. Council normally decides on grant recipients in April.
(CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story stated that the Cultural Development Committee adjudicates cultural applications. It is actually done by an arms-length jury of peers from the arts and heritage sector, who make recommendations to the committee, who in turn pass them on to city council.)