WHEREAS the current provincial Funding Allocation Model for Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) was implemented in April 1998; and WHEREAS the 1998 funding model does not adequately address the challenges of service delivery or the cost of doing business in small and remote rural communities in 2006; and WHEREAS small and remote rural FCSS programs are consistently faced with increased demands for service, as are the large urban programs; and WHEREAS in the ‘boom’ economy currently being experienced, the job market has become extremely competitive with employers having trouble retaining and attracting staff, particularly in small and remote communities; and WHEREAS many small and remote FCSS programs are not able to compete in this job market and are in danger of losing staff and/or programs.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties advocate to the Minister of Children’s Services to review the FCSS Funding Allocation Model specifically to look at the unique needs of small and remote rural Alberta programs.
The current funding model, implemented in 1998, is based on the population of participating municipalities (or Metis settlements) with an adjustment for median income levels. When the model was implemented in 1998, many small communities would have seen their funding reduced. The decision was made, however, that no program should experience decreased funding and so the practice of ‘grandfathering’ was implemented. Grandfathering allows a program, at minimum, to retain its current level of funding. However, because a community’s population does not increase does not mean its needs do not increase. Although the annual provincial FCSS budget has increased considerably since 1998, larger urban centres have been the primary beneficiaries of these increases. As their populations rise, sometimes dramatically, they receive the lion’s share of the annual provincial increase, while small communities with little or no population gain receive little or no increase. Although several municipalities are able to contribute more than their required 20 per cent to the local FCSS program, many simply do not have the tax base to do so. These municipalities have to make incredibly tough decisions about FCSS program delivery – do they hire more staff to offer services, do they cut back services, or do they become solely an external granting body- We believe that FCSS service delivery is most effective, and community development best practiced, when personal connections are made with community through FCSS direct delivery of services. This requires dedicated human resources who understand the FCSS ‘way of doing business.’ Small and remote rural FCSS programs require a base amount of funding to enable them to hire qualified staff and we believe the FCSS Funding Allocation Model should incorporate a base operating or administrative funding level for small and remote rural programs, applied much like the grandfathering process. This base level would be an amount to cover the core costs of staffing and administration, determined by factors such as remoteness, population decrease and social risk factors. We believe this is a minimum funding level at which FCSS programs can remain viable. Consider Community X with a population of 500 -600 residents: The provincial FCSS grant is approximately $16,000.00. With the 20 per cent municipal contribution of $4,000.00, the total program budget is $20,000.00. As with most small remote rural municipalities, Community X is fairly isolated, with limited access to services. FCSS is the ?only game in town? when it comes to finding help with social issues – in Community X that means FCSS is expected to respond to everything that has to do with people. Community X hires a staff person to provide FCSS services, but can only afford a half-time person at $12.00 an hour, with benefits, for a cost of about $13,000.00 a year. An annual raise should be built in to retain staff in this remote community. The budget has to afford travel costs for everyday business and training events in the urban centres, add office overhead – the budget is now up to about $16,000.00 with $4,000.00 left for programming and services. As stated before, tough decisions have to be made on how to allocate the budget, or even ultimately to opt out of FCSS. We believe the small and remote rural FCSS programs have unique funding needs that are not currently being addressed with the funding formula. A review of the model with consideration of these programs is timely given the economic and population changes the province is experiencing along with the resultant social issues.
Resolution 5-01F regarding Family and Community Support Services Program Funding urges the Government of Alberta to increase provincial funding support to FCSS in the amount of $15.5 million in addition to the 2001/2002 Children’s Services Ministry Business Plan and that the indexed increases to the government program pool of funds for FCSS be at least equal in amount to increases in provincial population and inflation. The government responded that an additional $15.5 million in funding to FCSS was forwarded for consideration in the 2002/03 Alberta Children’s Services Business Plan.
A review of the FCSS program was released in May 2007. It found that small rural programs face unique challenges and resulted in $1.2 million in funding to address such. The Rural Issues Working Group was formed over the summer of 2007 and resulted in the development some short- and long-term strategies for implementation based on the review. One short term strategy was to bring all of the FCSS Programs up to the same funding level. Since 2003, the FCSS Program has seen an increase of 16 per cent. In looking at the funding model allocations, not all FCSS programs received the 16 per cent increase as they did not qualify for additional funding based on their municipalities population and median income. In January 2008, letters were sent to municipalities and Metis Settlements who did not get the full 16 per cent advising of the additional allocation available to them as a result of the adjustment. The additional funds will be received by the end of March 2008 and the municipality will not be required to provide the matching 20 per cent for the first year. The adjustment will be added to their municipal base funding and they will be required to provide 20 per cent matching in 2009. The AAMDC will continue to monitor the implementation of both the short- and long-term recommendations of the Rural Issues Working Group as it pertains to this resolution.