In 2022, council has responsibility for $574,853 in District funds (from a $31 million operational budget). Service agreements represent about 40% of our annual discretionary cash.
The following were the service agreement participants up for renewal:
1. Sooke Food Bank
2. Sooke Region Communities Health Network
3. Sooke Community Association
4. Sooke Tourism Association
5. Visitor Information Centre
6. Sooke Lions Club - Canada Day + Santa Parade
7. Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce
One other service agreement not reviewed was a three-year agreement ($30k per year) we approved in the spring with the Sooke Family Resource Society. This supports its Youth Navigator and Adult Counselling programs for vulnerable individuals in need who otherwise could not afford these critical services. Funds for this agreement come from the District's Covid Relief Reserve Fund.
Staff recommended that a 6.4% CPI index increase based on year-to-year inflation be considered for all service agreements.
Also under council's budget purview are ...
* Community Grants Program ($65k, annual application deadline is March 15)
* Council contingency fund to cover arising requests and our own initiatives ($60k)
* Funds for our own travel to and attendance at regional, provincial and national conventions ($15k)
* Salary contributions for our valued/vital corporate service support ($126k)
* Line-item annual funding for the Sooke Fine Arts Society, Sooke Philharmonic Society, Sooke Community Arts Council and the Wild Wise (Sooke) Society ($7k each).
* Support for the Primary Health Care Services Working Group ($5k)
* Smaller amounts for Sooke School District's Safe and Healthy Schools program, the Vancouver Island South Film Commission, Need2 Suicide Prevention and Education Support, the Intermunicipal Advisory Committee on Disability Issues (IACDI) and Communities in Bloom
*Funding for special events, namely the Santa parade and Canada Day fireworks and logger-sport events.
Sooke Food Bank
Council added cost-of-living increase, taking the Food Bank's funding to $27,132. This was for the one-year term the organization requested. A 12-month renewal will allow the Food Bank to better understand the impacts of both inflation on already vulnerable Sooke families as well as the new town centre BC Housing projects, which are sure to add some new clients.
Significant news: We learned that the Baptist Church wishes to donate land at the front of its ALR property adjacent to Grace Garden as a new home for the Food Bank. Local builder Roy Anderson is part of the steering committee project team along with Food Bank ED Kim Kaldal and the Baptist Church's Rick Eby and Andy Schell. Council is promised more specifics in the new year.
- In 2021, as per the Sooke Food Bank Annual Report ...
- Gave out 3,263 hampers in helping 133 adults and 56 children weekly
- Distributed 134,000 pounds of food at total cost of $257k (stats from 2021 annual report)
- Donations increased by 29.58% to $240k
- 14% raise in requests for hampers, anecdotally demand has continued to climb
- Funding sources: Community donations, Food Banks BC ($25k), Food Banks Canada ($35k), the District of Sooke ($35k), BC Gaming grants ($45k).
- Community initiatives: Christmas Bureau, Santa Run (Sooke Firefighters Association and IAFF Local 4841), the 10,000 Tonight Food Drive (EMCS leadership students), the Meanwhile In Sooke Holiday Food Bank Challenge and multiple others over the years.
- Community partners/donors/sweet-deal cutters: Parkland Poultry, Grace Gardens at the Baptist Church, Western Foods, Village Foods, Sooke Home Hardware, Fields, Bosleys, Pharmasave, Pemberton Holmes, Coast Capital, CIBC, Kelz Bakery, Sooke 2 For 1 Pizza, Guided Films, Meanwhile in Sooke, the Stick in the Mud, Haldane Homes, Sooke Fax and Coppy, the 17 Mile Pub and other businesses.
- Good and long overdue news: Food Banks BC now pays (or did?) honorariums to Kim Kaldal Metzger ($12k per year) and Gerry St. Laurent ($3,600 to cover his travel expenses on behalf of the organization)
Cost of Living Realities
- "Living Wage Jumps 20% in Greater Victoria" - Capital Daily, Nov. 17, 2022 ("The hourly pay necessary for two people to support themselves and two children in Greater Victoria has risen to $24.29 this year")
- The cost of feeding a family of four has risen by 20% since pandemic according to a survey conducted by Ottawa Public Health
- Statistics Canada: Since late 2021, price increases for food sold in stores, measured on a year-over-year basis, have outpaced headline consumer inflation, growing faster than 10% in August, September and October 2022. In September 2022, yearly price increases for food purchased in stores (11.4%) rose at the fastest pace since 1981, remaining elevated in October (+11.0%).
Sooke Region Communities Health Network
SRCHN will return in January with a revised request in seeking an increase to $50k (from $24,355). This would cover a demonstrated need for increased staffing (currently 1.4 FTE) and rental costs for office space at the Knox Centre. (Staffing and operational costs are typically not covered by third-party grants, which SRCHN is a proven master at securing.) To date, the District has matched funds granted through Island Health.
SRCHN is doing intense heavy lifting for the District while taking the lead on major #Sooke needs:
- Planning and coordination for a Community Health & Urgent Care Centre in southeast quadrant of Lot A
- Fundraising, project management for the Gathering Place intergenerational centre and seniors housing on Lot A
- Volunteer education and engagement with assistance available to all Sooke volunteer groups
- Delivery of services (i.e., Better At Home) to Sooke's most vulnerable populations, including youth and isolated seniors.
SRCHN's primary budget items:
- Programs ($152k per year)
- Seniors Bus ($110k per year)
Visit the agenda for its Sept. 2022 annual report (pp. 43-61). It cites ongoing work on the above plus ...
- Sooke region volunteers and resources
- Better At Home program
- Seasonal Free Tax Clinic
- Sooke Region Lifelong Learning
- Seniors Centre Without Walls
- Sooke Region Women's Cancer Group
- Age-Friendly, Mental Health & Addictions, Fundraising and Executive/Finance committees
Sooke Community Association
Council approved a $5k increase in the five-year agreement. Community Hall operating costs have increased in recent years re: custodial services and heat/hydro as the SCA continues to offer no-or-low cost rentals to multiple groups using the space. (See agenda pp. 15-17 for a summary provided by SCA President Dean Haldane.)
- Annual operating costs of the hall paid by the SCA are $60k. Community Hall improvements in recent years: new carpeting in lower hall areas; repainting of interior walls; refinishing of non-carpeted flooring; new chairs for facility users; upgrades to fire-suppression equipment in downstairs kitchen.
- Future upgrades: renovation of washrooms, replacement of elevator, exterior siding and windows.
- Schedule A requirement: "Provide several local non-profit community groups, including the District of Sooke, witih the space, either rent-free or below market value, at the Commuity Hall located at 2039 Shields Road." SCA provides space at no charge or reduced rental rate to Meals On Wheels, Contact Loan Cupboard, Sooke Food Bank, Sooke Lions Club, Sooke Harbourside Lions, Amber Academy, Sooke Salmon Enhancement, Seniors Bridge and Bus Club, Sooke Fall Fair, Sooke Soccer Club, Sooke Martial Arts and community organizations booking the hall.
Sooke Region Tourism Association
Council renewed SRTA's five-year service agreement with a cost-of-living bump to $26,614 per year.
SRTA's Vice-President Daniel Baker of Sooke-based Guided Films shared that he has met recently with the District's Community Economic Development Officer with the goal of fast-tracking Sooke participation in the Municipal and Regional District Tax program. A per-night stipend (2% or 3% of the bill) on hotel and Air B&B visitors would, it's said, provide Sooke with a low six-figure annual budget for tourism destination marketing.
Mayor Milne's "Promote Sooke" Task Force, chaired by then-Councillor Tait, first prioritized what was then known as the Additional Hotel Room Tax (AHRT) as a top wish when it began meeting in April, 2013. The 2021/22 Community Economic Development Committee was mandated to, among other objectives, "complete Municipal and Regional Destination Tax (MRDT) application" and "develop a tourism strategy for Sooke." These objectives have been rolled into the Sooke Community Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan (2021).
SRTA's 2022 membership list features 55 local businesses, accommodation providers, restaurants and local organizations, the District included. Membership dues ($7,300) are SRTA's one revenue source apart from the District grant.
SRTA produces the regional flat map distributed at the Visitor Information Centre and local accommodations. It also produces a Visitor Guide, does social media promotion of the region and enters into co-op partnerships with other regional tourism groups. In 2023, it plans to rebrand itself from the current "Sooke to Port Renfrew" to a more on-point "Sooke Tourism" and will proceed with events and promotional activities over the year.
Visitor Information Centre
Council approved the request to add $20k to the VC's service agreement, taking it to $53k annually. This funding will increase staffing hours; enable a mobile info service that can be rolled out to community events, the Potholes, the town centre and elsewhere; and deliver enhanced social media and online services (live chat, virtual assistants). Successful pursuit of the Municipal Regional Destination Tax will provide future funding for the VC as a full-scale destination marketing office for the region.
- Operated by the Sooke Region Historical Society. Staffed and based out of the Sooke Region Museum since the early 1980s and recognized by Destination BC as Sooke's official visitor information centre.
- States the VC report: "The District of Sooke receives significant added value and benefits operating the VC from the Museum. There would be a much higher cost to operate a VC as a stand-alone operation, or from within the DOS."
Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce
Council approved request for $30,698.00 for 2023, with annual increases to adjust for inflation.
The revitalized Chamber renewed a service agreement with the District in 2019 and has been active ever since in remarkably creative, productive fashion while delivering member services and helping businesses ride out the pandemic. In meeting its Schedule A obligations, the Chamber ...
1. Relaunched the Newcomer's Club, a minimum of 5 meetings per year with groups of up to 35 participants.
2. Free and affordable business courses. The monthly Chamber Newsletter lists low-cost and free online courses. The Chamber also offers in-person courses, including an Indigenous Cultural Training last year and a Dis/Misinformation course recently.
3. Annual business survey (2022 edition) to gather #Sooke business perspectives and metrics
4. Continued networking and support services available to all Sooke businesses regardless of membership status.
5. Promotion of District initiatives, meetings, survey call-outs, etc.
6. Alliance with other Sooke community groups, including SRTA, WorkLink BC and the South island Prosperity Project.
Combined, the tangible services result in about 900 hours of effort and include the work from our single staff person, our team of volunteers (four), and our Board of Directors (8 in 2022, and may increase to 12 in 2023). The hourly cost for these services would amount to $34.11, and would include human effort, office space, materials, equipment, and more.