Moncton councillors opted to top-up how much the city is budgeting for grants to various organizations next year as city staff recommended smaller due to the municipality's tight budgets.
City staff had recommended spending $1,492,540 on grants to dozens of cultural, immigration and social groups as part of the 2021 budget.
That's up slightly from last year, but would see some organizations receive less than before or thousands less than requested.
Instead, councillors voted to increase spending by more than $118,000, citing organizations struggling to deal with the pandemic.
"We need to make sure these organizations have what they need," said Coun. Blair Lawrence, who made the motion to increase spending.
The vote boosts spending for multiple groups, including $10,000 for Moncton Headstart, $10,000 for the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area and $5,000 for Théâtre l'Escaouette, above what staff had recommended.
One of the biggest increases was to boost the grant to the Atlantic Ballet of Canada by $50,000 for a total grant of $145,000, the same it received this year.
Coun. Pierre Boudreau said the Atlantic Ballet of Canada was "shocked" when staff told the group they'd recommend cutting the group's grant by about 30 per cent.
Boudreau called it a cultural organization that helps attract people to live in the city and is already operating on a tight budget.
Staff had warned that city spending on grants increased an average of 28.5 per cent annually since 2014. As well, the city's financial situation with COVID-19 means budgets are already tight.
Several councillors pointed to how the city had just voted to bail out the international firm that manages the Avenir Centre.
This certainly isn't a rainy day, these are rainy, rainy months. - Coun. Brian Hicks
"These organizations are as important, in fact they're more important because they're local," Coun. Charles Leger said.
Coun. Brian Hicks said the city could find the money from a city reserve account. That account has around $7 million collected from taxpayers in previous years.
He said reserves have been considered "rainy day" funds.
"This certainly isn't a rainy day, these are rainy, rainy months," Hicks said. "That's exactly what the reserves were put in place for."
Final approval of grant funding will take place when councillors vote on the 2021 budget later this year.
City staff have told council they face a deficit in the range of $2.3 to $2.5 million next year because of the pandemic which would need to be reduced by cuts to spending.