FIFTY-SIX community volunteers loudly applauded 45 announcements of successful grants through South Gippsland Shire Council’s Round 1 Community Grants program 2010/11 at a sociable ceremony last Wednesday evening in Leongatha.
Altogether, $189,459.50 was distributed, broken down as $117,214.50 in general community grants, $14,000 in celebrations/festivals/events grants, $28,000 major events and $30,245 in “planning development study grants” was handed out for community benefit and improvements.
Both the outgoing Mayor Cr Jim Fawcett and the newly elected Mayor Cr Warren Raabe expressed their pleasure at the total project value involved and at the ability of the grants to leverage a further $42,875 in funds from other government agencies such as Regional Development Victoria.
“Since community grants began, Council has allocated a total of $1.4 million to community groups via the annually expanding program,” Cr Fawcett noted with pleasure.
Mayor Cr Raabe said he was, “Amazed at the depth and diversity of the projects Council funded.”
Altogether, covering the municipality east to west from Hedley to Nyora and north to south from Mirboo North to Venus Bay, the grants will facilitate a project value (including “in kind” contributions) estimated at a total of $925,000.
Hopefully some $500,000 of this will be derived from funds leveraged from outside the municipality.
Mayor Cr Raabe observed that even with Council’s grants coffers being swelled by some $58,000 diverted across from Councillor Discretionary Funds, there simply wasn’t enough money to satisfy the 77 grant applications Council received, requesting a total of $344,091.30.
Consequently, the competitive process resulted in only 26 out of 54 general grants applications being successful.
The strike rate was better in the celebrations/festivals/events category with five out of eight applications being funded to some degree, and of the 10 planning development study grant applications received, six got the nod.
Six new major events grants were sought, plus two still ‘alive’ from previous years, and all shared the $28,000 pool of funding, meaning that there is none left in this category for Round Two.
Some events such as Mossvale Music Festival and South Gippsland Game Fishing Competition received an instalment of a progressively reducing series of grants allocated over a few years to help establish the events without them remaining dependent on Council, while others such as Tastes of Prom Country have dropped off the calendar.
With some applications, Council’s Grants Officer Penni Ellicott saw the chance to value-add by “packaging” an organisation’s future desires and expanding the initial request so that it became eligible for additional external funding.
“It’s all about getting best value for our money and maximising what it can do for the community,” she said.
In the case of Port Franklin Hall Committee, an initial request for funding to install new public barbecues was widened to include proposed future picnic tables and other improvements the so that the Committee was then eligible to apply for an extra $10,000 from the Department of Planning and Community Development’s Community Support Fund, enabling the entire project to be completed in one step.
Among the halls network, Toora, Mt Best and Hedley Hall Committees individually put in for grants, and their success now means that Council will put in a joint application on their behalf to Regional Development Victoria and the DPCD for close to $200,000 in funds to complete major works such as the safe replacement Toora Hall’s asbestos roof.
Cr Raabe expressed his great satisfaction at the introduction of a grant program aspect that encouraged funding to be sought for leveraging purposes in the 2010/11 rounds.
Noting the gap between total funds requested and approved, he committed Council to “looking at other ways to get all the money” requested by the community through the process.
After the successful grants were announced, the audience members took advantage of the presence of Councillors and senior Council staff to introduce themselves and have informal discussions about the purpose of their groups, successful achievements, concerns and their anticipated future directions.
Many of the community representatives were involved in multiple organisations and over a tasty and generously-supplied supper, were able to give feedback and make approaches to Council that applied beyond the reason for their invited presence at the grants night.
As an example, Catherine McGlead of the Great Southern Rail Trail (GSRT) Committee of Management (and also President of Prom Country Regional Tourism) used the opportunity to talk to the new Mayor Cr Raabe.
She raised the entwined topics of tourism, the possibility of the Gippsland Local Government Network supporting rail trails across the region, the extent and range of Council staff assistance that the Committee could access, and Council advocacy on the GSRT’s behalf with multiple State Government agencies so that the trail can finally be completed without break from Leongatha to Yarram and satisfactorily managed into the future.
Ms McGlead also thanked Mayor Raabe for Council’s outstanding support for the GSRT in both recognising the trail’s completion as a major priority Council project and in providing some $30,000 annually in ongoing maintenance grants.
“When you look at what other rail trails in Victoria receive from their local Councils, the Great Southern Rail Trail is incredibly well supported by South Gippsland Shire, and we really appreciate that,” she told him.
Community groups that tendered apologies for being unable to attend the presentation missed a valuable chance to further their group’s causes and goals.
Next chance at grants
There is still $148,540 left for Council’s Round Two Community Grants, which has just closed (unsuccessful applicants of Round One were reminded beforehand of Round Two’s imminent closure in case they wanted to re-apply).
To assist the success of grant applications in the future, Ms Ellicott strongly urged groups to “be sure to provide all of the information requested via the clearly stated grants eligibility criteria.”
She regretted that, “Some great projects missed out due to lack of basic information such as landowner approval and current financial statements.”
She encouraged groups to “read the guidelines and to ask questions early in the application process” to improve their chances of obtaining funding.
“Application support information such as quotes is vital and worth more than lots of writing,” she reiterated.
Next financial year’s Round One Community Grants applications are expected to open in early May 2011 as Council will have framed its 2011/12 budget by then.
This year’s Round Two grant successes are expected to be announced in late April 2011.
Mayor Cr Raabe invited community groups to provide practical feedback on Council’s grants process in time for it to be considered as part of the annual review of the grants program prior to next’s year’s grants opening.