Council debating charitable donation policy

Okotoks: Town could move to a no-donation policy

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Thursday, Aug 28, 2014 12:58 pm

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Okotoks council is divided on how charitable the Town should be, with some councillors looking for guidelines on donations the town makes, and others looking to stop them altogether.

At their Aug. 18 meeting, council discusses a bylaw that would clarify when and how the Town dishes out charitable donations, but ultimately couldn’t make a decision and sent the report back to administration for revisions.

“In reviewing the proposed sponsorship bylaw, it really struck me that this is moving outside of the realm of what local government is there to do,” Coun. Matt Rockley said. “It really starts to set up the town as a charitable foundation, which is really isn’t. The role of local government is to provide public services and facilities and to serve the residents and the businesses in the community.”

The Town has been a supporter of many charity and non-profit events in the community, often participating in fundraising golf tournaments, attending charity events, and providing silent auction items in the form of recreation centre passes and other items. Council has a $30,000 emergent matters fund that pays for most donations.

Rockley argued that council shouldn’t have the luxury of being a corporate sponsor when it involves donating on behalf of taxpayers.

“We aren’t a business,” he said. “With businesses people have the choice to bring their dollars there. People don’t have a choice whether or not to support it. People have to pay the property taxes whether they like it or not. The town using that property tax to redistribute money to a charity that (the taxpayer) may or may not support isn’t a role of municipal government.”

Coun. Tanya Thorn said the Town and council members should lead by example when it comes to supporting the community.

“While we are a government body, we should run as a corporate entity,” she said. “And we encourage all businesses to support the charities in our communities. I’m concerned about the Town of Okotoks saying we won’t support those things.”

Coun. Ed Sands weighed in on the other side, saying sometimes the Town has to make decisions that won’t please every resident.

“I appreciate councillor Rockley’s desires to minimize spending and keep the finger on the public, but I worry that it’s an insidious motion,” he said. “The Town is doing things that some people don’t want us to do– some people might like recreation and some people might not have any interested in that at all but we still support it.”

Last week’s discussion is not the first time the topic has come up, as a previous councillor proposed a no sponsorship policy back in 2011, but the motion was not supported by council or certain members of the community.

“One pervious councillor really argued against council participating in any charity golf tournaments whatsoever,” said Mayor Bill Robertson. “Then some very prominent members of the community came out and said ‘we need these functions, a councillor or members of council attending gives some credibility and profile to those events.’”

Rockley said he understands it’s important for council to represent the town at community functions, but felt the funds should be coming out of council members salaries, which are one-third tax-free.

“I’m completely supportive of charities and non profits– I volunteer and donate to the extent that I’m able to – so as no way do I want this to be seen as the Town isn’t supportive,” he said. “I would still encourage and expect members of council to continue to participate and support to the extent that they are able to… and by using personal funds to participate it gives them satisfaction of supporting that cause.”

A revised report will likely come before council for a decision at their next meeting on Sept. 8.


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