Town calls for increase to FCSS funding
Okotoks: Town's share of funds unchanged since 2010
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Apr 02, 2014 06:00 am
Okotoks Town officials are calling for the provincial government to increase funding for a program that supports a range of needs in the communities from children and low-income parents to special needs residents and seniors.
Okotoks receives $411,553 in Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) funding from the provincial government. This number hasn’t changed since 2010 and there are no plans for an increase.
“We have asked every year for the past five years, probably even longer than that, for an increase in funding to at least keep up with population growth and cost of living,” said Debbie Posey, Okotoks FCSS team leader.
The FCSS funding covers work done by community agencies, Town-run programs and the Healthy Family Resource Centre. The cost of FCSS programming is split between the Town and Province, with the provincial share covering 80 per cent and the Town is required to kick in the remaining 20 per cent, or $102,888.
The Town council provides more than $100,000 in grants to organizations that provide programs to support Okotoks residents paid for by FCSS funding. This year, council approved $137,000 in grants for 13 different agencies.
With funding remaining the same as Okotoks continues to grow, Posey said it amounts to a decrease because the Town has to serve more people each year with the same amount of money. She said the Town has been able to stretch its dollars over the years, but it’s reached a point where it can’t continue to do so anymore.
Posey said the limited funding doesn’t just affect the Town, it impacts the organizations they support. She said organizations are starting to feel the strain of not seeing increases in funding.
“We are not into our fifth year without being able to offer much of an increase to our funded agencies,” she said. “We’ve held them right where they were five years ago, there have been really no significant increase in funding that we’ve been able to offer because, of course costs keep rising and we don’t have any more money to distribute.”
Lisa Shankaruk, spokesperson for Alberta Human Services, said the Province recognizes the importance of FCSS programs for municipalities.
She said the government has chosen to hold the line on provincial FCSS funding while the program undergoes a budgeting review.
Shankaruk said any decisions on potential changes to FCSS funding will be made after the review is complete.
“Our priority really is ensuring the FCSS programs in general can continue because we recognize how important a role they play in our communities,” she said. “Our priority is ensuring Alberta’s communities are able to provide these opportunities.”
Okotoks mayor Bill Robertson said the provincial government needs to increase FCSS funding to catch up with the needs of growing communities.
He said FCSS funding is critical to supporting social programs, particularly for people more at risk of falling through the cracks.
“There’s a lot of proactive stuff that FCSS does,” said Robertson.
He said it’s not just a problem in Okotoks but in the broader Calgary region as well. However, he is concerned there won’t be any action on the issue while the Progressive Conservative Party’s leadership race is underway.
“It’s very possible that for the next four to six not much will happen as the government undergoes a transition,” said Robertson.