Incorporation: Myths Around Grants

There is too much misleading information making the rounds about all the grant money Salt Spring would supposedly receive if we incorporate. Perhaps some persons are even led to believe that we get no grants at all now.

The truth is that Salt Spring already receives numerous grants - possibly more than our share - from many different sources. To name only a few examples, we have received significant grants for land conservation, to construct our library, ArtSpring, the swimming pool, community pathways, the Ganges sewer system and Murakami Gardens. Our success in this respect would make us the envy of any small community.

From 2001-2017, Salt Spring was the recipient of some $60 million in grants. We have done very well.

The Lieutenant Governor of BC, the Honourable Judy Guichon, visited Salt Spring in 2013. She made a point of lauding how much we had accomplished given our size. She knows BC communities well and she was rightly impressed.

The federal government also transfers resources to the provinces to distribute to communities; we currently have access to these Community Works Funds through the CRD. Salt Spring projects compete with each other for the funding and allocations are determined on-island by the locally-elected CRD Director.

It is true that there are some BC infrastructure grants for which we are not eligible. But applying for a grant and actually obtaining a grant are not the same thing. Small municipalities across the province have complained for years that they cannot get these grants. Why? First, because they are difficult, time-consuming and expensive to apply for. But mostly because there are 162 municipalities applying for limited funding, with success rates as low as 22% per application. Most of these grants also require matching funds up to 50%. So if you have a $2 million project, you may need a million dollars in the bank in matching funds, just to apply. Grant applications require much up-front work on studies, engineering and consultation - again, just to apply.

Increasingly, the Province requires municipalities to have an Asset Management Plan as part of their application to demonstrate that they are managing their assets and infrastructure in a sustainable way. Applicants must itemize all assets (roads, pathways, waste management and water facilities, etc.), calculate when they will need replacing, and set aside funds each year - for each of these assets – for maintenance, repairs and eventual replacement. Asset management planning takes time and money. Putting aside sufficient funds for future infrastructure replacement is a huge challenge, as most local governments discover to their chagrin.

Urban Systems Incorporation Study did not make provision for any asset management plans: its estimates of infrastructure maintenance costs (and related property taxes) are based on “current spending levels” only. Therefore, the costs that a future municipality would incur before it could apply for some grants are not included in either the estimated budget or the estimated property taxes for a future municipality.

No one would make his or her retirement plans contingent on winning the lottery, Nor should anyone vote for incorporation in the expectation that Salt Spring will get a lot of free grant money it doesn’t have access to already.

Donald McLennan




July 31, 2017 12:28 PM