Municipalities are getting ready for a major shift in how provincial funds are granted.
The single-window application and basket funding model promised by Premier Brian Pallister during last year’s election is on the way, attendees heard during the June 15 Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) Western District meeting.
The two-part changes are in response to long-standing complaints by local governments. AMM argues granting has been historically inefficient, requiring multiple applications to multiple programs, while conditional grants limited how money could be used.
“Administration works tirelessly to make sure that applications are in place,” AMM president Chris Goertzen said. “Some of them are complicated. Some of them require an extensive amount of background work and, if you have to do it multiple times, that’s time consuming and somewhat wasteful. I think that if we can go to the single-window model, that is a good thing. If we can further that now and go to a basket funding model, where we end up having unconditional funds that are transferred to municipalities so that they can make the best decisions for their citizens, I think that’s also a good model.”
The application model introduced a single intake for multiple grant programs in late-summer 2016. Road and bridge applications have since begun to move through the new process.
Money will flow through the new funding model this fiscal year, according to the province.
“It’s a single basket of money that they can spend in regards to different needs within their community,” Eileen Clarke, minister of Indigenous and municipal relations, said. “The single-window application, that is how they’ll apply for funding to fill their basket.”
Single grants have been created for municipal operation, public safety and infrastructure. Lump-sum payments will be provided for each of the three baskets, to be allocated by local governments.
The model will draw from money previously offered through the Building Manitoba Fund, Rural Economic Development Initiatives and regular operating grants, Grant Doak, Indigenous and municipal relations deputy minister, told the AMM June 15.
Municipal operating costs will combine general assistance, municipal programs and general support grants, while the infrastructure basket accounts for $69.4 million this year, including $55.4 million already committed for existing projects and $14 million for new construction. Recreation projects, roads, bridges, water, sewer and flood prevention will flow through the infrastructure basket. The province says both provincial funding and federal-provincial cost-sharing infrastructure programs will also be included.
The final basket, public safety, comes at a time when municipalities are lamenting the jump in policing costs. A study by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities found that Canadian policing costs rose from $6.4 billion in 1999 to $12.3 billion in 2009. The study further reported that municipalities had covered 60 per cent of that cost jump.
The public safety basket will introduce an urban policing grant for communities with at least 750 people, the province said.
In total, $134 million has been earmarked for municipalities outside Winnipeg this year, matching 2016. While the AMM was pleased that funds were not lowered, the organization has noted concern that 2017 funding does not account for inflation.
Basket funding will complement existing Green Team, Community Places and Community Planning Assistance programs and Neighbourhoods Alive! grants, the province said.
Earl Malyon of the Municipality of Glenboro-South Cypress said he hopes the changes will streamline granting.
“The old system was a whole bunch of criteria with different start times, different end times, different amounts of money and you couldn’t always fit the criteria, so you were limited just to what you could apply for and what you could get within your community and if you had a project — just for an example, say you had a project to put in culverts — and you didn’t use your funding, it had to be returned,” he said.
The RM of Glenboro-South Cypress has not yet received funds through the new application model, Malyon said, but has submitted several recent requests.
Randy Henuset, deputy reeve of the Municipality of Pipestone, however, was unimpressed with the single-window application and basket funding models.
“That way, it’s easier to say ‘no,’” he said.
The models were developed in consultation with the Association of Manitoba Municipalities. A survey and five regional consultations were held to gauge priorities ahead of development.
“Our department took all of that information to formulate this new model,” Clarke said. “Our municipalities have been part of designing it right from Day 1. It’s what they asked for and we achieved it with this new government.”