Taxpayers didn’t agree to massive grant-in-aid hike

Taxpayers didn’t agree to massive grant-in-aid hike

It was with concern that I read of Matteus Clement, Cobble Hill regional director, setting aside some $86,000 of public money to promote his interpretation of what grants-in-aid are for.

As a former Cobble Hill regional director, it was my understanding that grants-in-aid were a small resource to assist with the funding of groups such as Brownies, Scouts, Mill Bay Search and Rescue and the Women’s Institute.

When the larger needs of more established organizations such as the Shawnigan-Cobble Hill Farmers’ Institute were of concern, we went to referendum and asked the public’s permission to allocate public funds. However, even with the Farmers’ Institute 100 year history of community service, they certainly never got $86,000 to play with.

I have no recollection of Cobble Hill tax-paying residents as a whole being asked by Director Clement whether or not they approved of a 1,400 per cent rise in our grant-in-aid funds from $6,000 to $86,000. As it stands now, our grant-in-aid funds total more than the other eight Cowichan Valley regional district allotments combined.

Allowing residents to have a say in determining funding priorities is important. At least our Cobble Hill Area Planning Commission should have been consulted about this, and given their support before such an increased commitment of public funds was made. As the allocation of public money is a trust to be managed with great care, I wonder what public or appointed body in Cobble Hill will monitor the use of this money.

I also question Director Clement’s assumption that the funds should be used to apply for federal arts grants. Not only do I wonder about using the grant-in-aid funds as a lever to receive other grants, but I also am not convinced that the arts are a top priority of Cobble Hill taxpayers at this time when there are other long-standing concerns.

Director Clement unfortunately has a reputation of not following up on pertinent issues, such as the long overdue dog bylaw revisions. This has left questions in the minds of many about his understanding of his elected responsibilities. Not returning phone calls or e-mails and not informing taxpayers of grandiose plans that will cost tens of thousands of dollars of their hard-earned money has left a discouraged public somewhat jaded about his future as our director.

Jim Barker

Cobble Hill