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Council approves new agreement with Burnaby Neighbourhood House Society

Community grant policy changes have made Burnaby Neighbourhood House Society ineligible for grants

On Mar. 25, Burnaby City Council approved a new Burnaby Neighbourhood House Society (BNHS) contribution agreement. The new agreement, first proposed at the Executive Committee of Council meeting on Mar. 6, will provide BNHS with a total of $110,000, which includes the cost of printing resource guides. 

The new agreement also includes in-kind contributions for the BNHS annual gala, which used to be funded through other processes. BNHS will no longer be eligible to apply for community grants under the new Community Grant Policy

The new draft agreement does not include lease grants or permissive tax exemptions. According to Juli Halliwell, the city’s general manager of corporate services, if lease grants and permissive tax exemptions are factored into calculating the city’s contribution to BNHS, the total would be more than $217,000. 

Burnaby Neighbourhood House, North Burnaby. Photo: Burnaby Neighbourhood House

At the Mar. 6 meeting, Halliwell said that the city also plans to initiate a social infrastructure assessment through the social planning committee, “which should help inform the city of current supports needed in our community, which may lead to additional contribution agreements with other not-for-profit organizations or it could result in an update to the community grant policy or other funding programs.” 

“This is the first agreement of its kind that is coming in front of the committee,” Coun. Sav Dhaliwal said on Mar. 6. “Considering that we have $400,000 in the total budget, $110,000 is approximately more than 25% of the total budget.” 

Dhaliwal added that this is a fairly significant contribution to one organization, considering the existence of dozens of similar organizations that address community needs such as food, poverty reduction, childcare, and homelessness. Dhaliwal said such services are lacking on the provincial and federal government levels. He suggested capping city contributions to each non-profit organization at $100,000. He added that if one or more agreements of the same kind came forward, it would affect the grants program. 

Coun. Richard Lee supported the proposed $110,000 in funding and suggested allocating additional funds from the city’s gaming fund to non-profits doing similar work in the community. 

“I think Burnaby Neighbourhood House is providing very good and much-needed services to the community with the integration of programs such as senior programs, community services, and Meals on Wheels,” Lee said. 

Coun. Pietro Calendino disagreed with Lee’s perspective and commented that during discussions about the city’s financial plan, Lee had opposed any increases to fees and property taxes. 

“The two don’t go together; zero increase and then to express largesse to assist non-profits,” Calendino said. “There is no doubt that non-profit associations in Burnaby are doing great work than the provincial government where I was a member and Coun. Lee was a member for 12 years and has somehow disassociated itself from providing those services, and the same thing with the federal government. Now the burden is falling on municipal governments.” 

Calendino added that the municipal government is replacing the provincial and federal governments in meeting community needs. He echoed Dhaliwal’s sentiment that the city should cap grants for non-profits to avoid dipping into other funding sources. 

Food hampers at the Burnaby Neighbourhood House food hub in North Burnaby. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

According to Halliwell, BNHS had an opportunity to review the agreement throughout the process. The contribution agreement would be for three years, and funds would be allocated for salaries, lease payments, utilities, maintenance, and program costs, such as supporting vulnerable residents and seniors with food and other essential needs and operating childcare facilities.

Lee said he was surprised at Calendino’s remarks, adding that using the gaming fund for capital investment in infrastructure projects is not in the spirit of the gaming fund. 

“I think that fund’s intention is to support non-profit groups,” he said, “but not capital investments in those areas.” Lee added, “Gaming itself is addictive, so some form of spending some of the resources to reduce the addiction and the social impact is important.”

Dhaliwal said his proposal is not to cut funding to BNHS, which provides more services than most non-profit organizations, but to maintain the amount and cap it to ensure there is sufficient funding for other organizations. 

Coun. Maita Santiago said, “In an ideal world, I think it would be fantastic if city council could support Burnaby Neighbourhood House and all of the many great non-profits that do a lot of the work that frankly needs to be done in the city, but mindful that we’ve got limited financial capacity.”

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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