Ask and ye shall receive. Committee of the Whole considers group funding requests

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
February 9th, 2011

Ask and you shall receive…most of the time was the message of the day(s) as a two day extended committee of the whole(COW) meeting over the past two Mondays’ wrapped up a marathon budgeting session. Going through the city’s budget line by line, questioning, discussing and ultimately recommending an updated five year financial plan for the city, councilors passions shone through at times as they worked to make the potentially difficult decisions.

Wrapping up Monday night the process that got started the previous week the COW completed its recommendations on funding of either in kind or cash transfers to a host of groups in town requesting funding.   In total $191,500 in total community support was requested for 2011, up from $172,298 in 2010. The bulk of that increase in requests came in the form of the City’s recreation financial assistance program initiated last year as a measure to deal with access to Trail recreation facilities.   In 2010 City Council set up a $20,000 fund in which certain groups that met the established criteria could apply for financial assistance to offset increased fees due to the Trail Resident Program initiated after the breakup of the regional recreation service. Just over $8,000 of that fund was utilized last year and while $20,000 has been budgeted for 2011 Councilor Spearn noted that she hopes the full $20,000 doesn’t get used and that the actual expense come year end stays about the same as last year’s usage.   “I would hope that it would range around that same level. $20,000 when I put it in the bigger picture doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s a lot for quite a small number of people. I hope it stays around $8,000 and under ten (thousand).”   As discussions of group funding requests kicked off at the January 31st COW, Andy Stradling opened the discussion calling for reductions in funding to better align the city’s goals with its funding practice. Explaining to council his reasoning in detail that if the City’s goal is indeed to attract new residents which he noted provide a greater benefit to the City than simply attracting visitors than funding several small groups working on different aspects of that goal may not be the best way to serve the mission. Calling for 20% cut in funding to the Museum Society, Tourism Rossland, The Chamber of Commerce and The Sustainability Commission, Stradling ran up against opposition on that front with the exception of t he Sustainability Commission cuts. The commission’s request for $61,000 was defeated. A secondary recommendation to fund the commission at $55,000 was also defeated before ultimately a recommendation of $45,000 in funding for 2011 was later carried.   The only other group funding request that was reduced was that of the Western Regional Pond Hockey tournament. That request for $4,000 was reduced to $2,500 before being carried.   While most group funding requests were passed without significant discussion or questioning, a few of raised some interesting points of discussion including the future of Rossland’s downtown library.   The library service, which used to be included as part of Rossland’s contribution to regional recreation is now solely the City of Rossland’s responsibility to fund at a level of $122,400 in 2010 and a requested $124,000 for 2011 with an additional $10,000 in building maintenance also budgeted in a separate line item. Council ultimately approved the funding with Councilor Stradling opposed however; discussion around the table looked forward to future solutions for the library.   Councilor Spearn commented that “we have three libraries in town now including our beautiful downtown library,” and brought to the committees attention the possibilities in the near future of potentially bringing together Rossland’s three current libraries (downtown, MacLean Elementary and RSS, perhaps under the Neighbourhoods of Learning umbrella and cutting the downtown library from the budget adding that “maybe that building is worthy of selling one day if the library ever moved up to RSS. I’m just putting that out there as it is a fairly expensive service. Depending on amalgamation and what our schooling looks like in Rossland, this is an expensive service, which is a good thing. Amalgamation is something we will have to think about very seriously in the near future. The library service is one that could amalgamate and serve our community in a robust way.”   With just a few small cuts made to the group funding requests, Councilor Stradling noted that perhaps council isn’t doing enough to ease the tax burden in town adding “I just see us passing the buck to the next council. All the difficult work still to be done.” The committee of the whole’s reccomendations will now come back before council before any decisions are ultimately made.   See attached file for a full list of group funding requests     

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