Swathes of community support scythed in the 2013 budget

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
May 4th, 2013

The Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Rossland, the Rossland Pool Society , and the Neighbourhoods of Learning committee were all cut by five per cent relative to 2012 funding during council’s Wednesday evening committee-of-the-whole (COW), for a total expenditure of $107,540—about $5660 less than 2012.

Please note: all council decisions at a COW, as related here, are considered recommendations pending official ratification at a “regular” meeting, the next of which is on May 6. Other articles detail decisions made at the same meeting on debt financing for Columbia-Washington, a and a total cut to the Sustainability Commission.

The Rossland Council for Arts and Culture ($4000), the Kootenay Columbia Trails Society ($19,000), Bear Aware ($2500), the tennis club ($2000), and the public library ($126,000) were all maintained at 2012 levels, and the Heritage Commission received a $100 bump to $5400. 


KCTS funding is part of a regional agreement, Bear Aware is in the third year of a three year contract, and the library had requested $136,000 to fund extra staff to run programs.


Theoretical savings of $12,500 were found in the subsidy for seniors and children using the Trail Aquatic Centre, now cut to $8500 from $20,000 budgeted in 2012. But the subsidy has never been fully used, with only $7000 paid to applicants in 2012.


Roughly $115,000 in “operating support” for community groups—such as $45,000 for the pool, $27,000 for the curling rink, $18,000 for the museum, and $10,000 for Golden City Days—has yet to be considered by council.


The public library maintains its funding


Coun. Jody Blomme made a motion to maintain the library at last year’s funding levels, $126,000, some $10,000 less than the $136,000 they requested, but about $6000 more than the five per cent reduction Moore favoured.


Coun. Kathy Wallace supported the motion: “When the regional recreation commission ended and the library came back to city, its budget was $114,000. I think we need to send the message to tighten up the belt a little.


Coun. Kathy Moore spoke against the motion, preferring a “consistent” roll back of larger groups. “I’m a little uncomfortable with this piecemeal approach,” she said, “with no justification other than to tighten their belts.”


Coun. Tim Fisher disagreed and thought it was reasonable to look at them one by one “and then make a motion globally.”


Coun. Jill Spearn said, “I agree with Moore and Fisher, we need an overall strategy. I’m concerned by this motion when we’re going to have an overall strategy.


Blomme said, “Each one of us has seen this as a whole.” Her motion was carried with Spearn and Moore opposed.


Tourism Rossland and the Chamber of Commerce face small cuts


Moore made a motion to reduce Tourism Rossland by five per cent from 2012 funding. “My original strategy has blown up, but the point to do a modest reduction now and then go to goal remains the same. I’m trying to do it in a way that’s fair to all. That’s been nuked, but there’s still time.”


Specifically to Tourism Rossland, Moore said she wanted to “continue to support a group that has done a fantastic job for this community.”


Blomme said, “I personally feel we should make a larger reduction.” Her attempt to amend it to 10 per cent did not work, however. The motion carried with Blomme opposed.


Moore also made a motion to reduce the Chamber of Commerce by five per cent, “to reduce their budget in a manageable way. It will get the message across, but won’t hobble them.”


Blomme again stated her preference for a 10 per cent cut, “but I will vote for the five per cent.” She added that the chamber has “low cash flow and not a lot of flex without affecting things quite a bit. But I’m still in favour of having them deal with that, and five per cent will give the idea that more revenue generation is a talking point.”


Fisher said, “I support motion, but I’d like remind everyone that the businesses pay in a licensing fee, and there’s a high participation rate.” Speaking from experience in groups supported by federal money, he added, “The federal government always sent back less than we asked for.”


Spearn smelled hypocrisy: “I guess I’m annoyed about the Sustainability Commission thing,” she said. “The Chamber has a working director, the SC had a coordinator. It’s okay to get rid of that coordinator, but still going to keep the Chamber’s director? We’re impacting people’s jobs as well: every time you make a cut to the Chamber, you’re dealing with the director. So you can cut one person’s job, but you can save another?”


Moore noted that about $33,000 of the Chamber’s budget comes from business licenses.


The motion carried unanimously.


Trails Society to retain funding for now


Wallace pointed out that the city’s $19,000 funding for the Kootenay Columbia Trail Society (KCTS) “secures the $66,000 they get from the regional district, and reflects that the majority of trails are around [this] community.”


She continued, “I think this arrangement probably needs to get revisited at the East End meetings to recognize that trails around Rossland are a benefit to the whole area. But it’s been an established agreement and relationship between the East End and Rossland for many years. For us to reduce the $19,000 here, this late in the game, I’m not comfortable with that.”


Spearn added that liability reasons also prevented any change to this year’s KCTS budget.


Mayor Greg Granstrom added, “I just want to point out that KCTS membership is $10 per person.” His point seemed unclear to some councillors, so he clarified that he thought this reflected a problem in revenue generation from recreation.


Moore brought out the fact that the KCTS leverages its funding so well that some 34 per cent of it’s $132,000 budget comes from other sources, with Rossland contributing only 14 per cent of the total budget. “They’re bringing in other money,” she said.


Pool Society to take small cut as it is integrated with the city


Moore made a motion to cut the 2012 pool funding of $27,000 by five per cent. 


The group, currently in limbo as the now disbanded society is absorbed into City Hall, had asked for $27,300 this year, an increase Deputy CAO Tracey Butler explained as “strictly a labour increase” because of a decision to keep the pool open an extra week.


Wallace said, “I can’t support this motion. It’s not an arms-length group, this is the city, a direct request from the city.”


Blomme also said she considered the pool “a bit differently.” “As far as I understand, in order to have the pool open over the summer, we need to have this. Cutting back on the number of weeks the pool can be open limits the service directly, it’s not something volunteers can pick up the slack on.”


Butler gave council a pool update that staff will soon suggest that the city take over the society. “There are a few things we needed to look at before coming forward with a recommendation, such as how would we take employees in-house, but we’re not seeing any benefit at this time to remain with a society-type function of the pool. It will be a lot more work otherwise, for example a separate payroll.”


Regarding what the costs will be to run, Butler said she didn’t really know. “This is the first year we’re actually going to have our hands on.”


Fisher supported the motion: “We have to look at things through the lens of where we’re going. Maybe we could increase the fee by $1? If people won’t use it for $1 more, then maybe it’s a direction the city doesn’t need to go. Don’t get me wrong, my kids use the pool and we pay for it.”


The motion carried.


Following on it’s heels, the “recreation financial assistance” subsidy to users of the Trail Aquatic Centre was reduced from the suggestion of $10,000 for 2013 (and $20,000 was budgeted in 2012) to $8500.


Moore and Spearn voted against the motion. Moore pointed out that the reduction has the biggest impact on family’s with limited means. “We should put in a policy of means testing,” she said to ensure the subsidy is available to the people who most need it.

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