New Westminster wants to be ready to “pounce” on funding opportunities from the provincial and federal governments.
At a Nov. 20 budget workshop, staff mapped out some of the initiatives being proposed as part of the city’s 2024 budget. One of these relates to “aggressively” pursuing grant funding opportunities from senior governments to help finance the implementation of initiatives in council’s strategic vision.
Lisa Spitale, chief administrative officer, said staff agree they’ve never seen the number of grant opportunities that they’re seeing right now, both federally and provincially.
“This is probably one of the more strategic things that we want to do more work on in 2024,” she told council. “If you have to look at the various budget asks, if you look at the capital program in particular, it is really about being strategic and very aligned with the opportunities out there for grant funding. And so, that's one of the reasons why we're trying to restructure and align the organization as much as possible so that we can be as successful as possible.”
According to a memo to council from Denise Tambellini, the city’s manager of intergovernmental relations, the city and its partners secured about $83 million from senior governments from 2020 to 2023. The memo noted that not all of this funding goes directly to the city, such as provincial funding for the Peer Assisted Care Team or federal and provincial funding for a supportive housing project planned for 68 Sixth St.
“The upcoming year will be an opportunity to advance several key municipal projects based on the funding priorities of senior levels of government,” said the memo. “The 2024 provincial and 2025 federal elections may be an opportunity to advance priorities ahead of key announcements by each government.”
Local projects valued at about $83 million are currently being evaluated by senior levels of government, said the memo.
As part of the 2024 budget process, staff is requesting a full-time intergovernmental relations assistant. This would have an impact of about $55,000 on the budget (because part of the cost of an auxiliary staff person would be transferred over to this position).
“With the number of funding grants coming to the city (and its partners), there is a need to capture applications, plans and government contracts in one centralized location so our financial and contractual agreements have fulsome oversight and continue to be met,” said the memo. “It is essential that project funding received is maximized, and the full amount granted by senior governments is spent by the city.”
Coun. Nadine Nakagawa said the amount of funding from senior governments will not necessarily last forever, so it’s wise for the city to shift its efforts to take advantage of grant opportunities and set the city up for success.
“We know we have ambitious agenda that we'd love to put forward,” she said. “So matching the ambitiousness in our dreams with the ambitiousness and the ability to fund those dreams, I think is it makes really good sense.”
In order to continue being successful in getting funds from senior governments, Spitale said the city needs to understand the priorities of senior levels of government, work as one staff team to ready city projects for grant applications, continue to build effective government relationships and be a good partner.
Coun. Tasha Henderson said she thinks it’s “crucial” that the city provides more resources for the inter-governmental work.
“This is like the time to pounce with two imminent elections on the horizon,” she said. “So I think this is a worthy investment of that time; I think that those are dollars well spent.”’