Cash crunch catches community groups

Council continues to cut cash from community group coffers as the blade rose and fell on more groups.

Council continues to cut cash from community group coffers as the blade rose and fell on more groups.

The quest to cut seven per cent from the multi-million dollar budget of the city, or around $300,000, continued Monday night.

Council approved several more cuts to community group budgets for grants and operating support.

The city annually gives out money for community support in the form of grants, as well as municipality-funded operating support. Operating support is the city covering the costs incurred for each group.

But in order to help cover the shortfall, council has been looking at how much it is giving various community groups, and deliberating on the level of service taxpayers should now offer in leaner economic times.

The money saved is expected to cover the $100 per-household tax increase (based on the average assessed home value of $225,000) coming to pay for the Columbia-Washington downtown upgrades.

However, with operation and public works budgets not having been raised since 2009—absorbing rising costs such as fuel and labour—the real operation is to try and cut from the $370,000 the city provides to community groups (library, pool), and not severe any services the city provides.

Council will fund the Rossland Chamber of Commerce with the entire amount of the business licence fees the city received in 2013, which is $34,500. That number is lower than the $39,330 the chamber had asked for.

The Rossland Council for the Arts and Culture will be funded in the amount of $4,000 for 2014.

The city will also allocate $7,000 to fund financial assistance for groups to use the aquatic centre for recreation programs in 2014.

Council will also fund miscellaneous grants-in-aid in the amount of $1,800 for 2014.

Lions campground received a $1,700 operating grant, the Winter Carnival will get the amount it requested ($9,500), and Golden City Days committee will receive $5,900, the amount it requested.

The Tennis Court Society wanted $7,000 but will get $3,000 instead. The senior citizen’s hall will also receive $3,200 operational support for 2014, while the curling club will receive $26,800 in operating support from the city.

Museum

The additional funding that the museum received for 2013 made it possible to employ a much needed full time, year round manager, a letter from the museum told council before they deliberated.

The money also allowed for ongoing program development and for the museum to remain open a minimum of four days a week during the winter season.

“I don’t think $48,450 is an unreasonable amount for a museum of this quality,” said Mayor Greg Granstrom when council came to the matter.

“Everyone needs money but we need to cut them back,” said councilor Kathy Moore.

“But I think it is important to see how this goes for another year,” said councilor Tim Thatcher.

The museum’s request amount carried. The museum will also receive $18,500 in operational support from the city.

Library

The 2013 City of Rossland operating grant for the library was $105,000, with the library asking for $134,000 in 2014. Provincial grants were expected to drop from almost $37,000 to $24,700.

Total expenses in 2013 were $144,092 but are expected to rise to $166,180 in 2014 due to a $6,500 increase to collections and a further $6,000 to personnel.

“At some point the city cannot do everything for everyone,” said Moore. “So I would support the library seeking out other sources of funding … with regret.”

The library’s request amount did not carry, with council proposing they be cut back to $126,000 (operating grant) and $3,500 in operational support.

Tourism Rossland

The funding that Tourism Rossland received from the City of Rossland was “leveraged three times,” read a report to council from the organization.

Tourism Rossland had $269,122 in revenue in 2013, with $30,000 coming from the City of Rossland. On the operations end, Tourism Rossland spent $275,212, the deficit being covered by a $11,000 carry over from 2011.

Tourism Rossland asked for the same $30,000 from the city for 2014.

But Tourism Rossland’s request for $30,000 was denied, and instead $25,000 will be given for 2014.

As well, city staff will be required to liaise with the chamber of commerce and Tourism Rossland to find efficiencies between the two organizations.

Neighbourhoods of Learning

With the fight to keep kindergarten to Grade 12 in Rossland now over, the need for the Neighbourhoods of Learning committee ended as well.

But it was proposed by some councilors that money for the committee be transferred to Visions for Small Schools Society (VSSS) for an amount over $25,000 (for Seven Summits Centre for Learning), although no specific amount was submitted. The proposal was not well received.

“This is public money and I don’t think we should be funding (private education),” said Granstrom. “We fund 30 kids at this school and we don’t give anything to all of the children going down the hill to Trail? I don’t think it’s a good use of public tax dollars to fund private education.”

What NOL has morphed into the city’s tax dollars should not support, he said.

But the commitment as a city was to support kindergarten to Grade 12 education in Rossland, said councilor Jill Spearn.

“And to give kids a chance to stay in our community,” she said.

Councilor Kathy Moore agreed with Granstrom.

“Education is not a municipal mandate because the province dropped the ball on this,” she said.

She proposed $15,000 as bridge funding for VSSS.

“We don’t see education as a municipal mandate long term, but we will give money to launch the initiative,” she said.

Granstrom said it was still wrong and should not be supported.

“I generally wonder if we are making it easier for the public system to not be here if we are paying into their decision,” said councilor Jody Blomme.

The motion was defeated and no money will be given to NOL or VSSS.

Sustainability Commission

The aim of the commission is to use a large portion of any city funds to leverage larger contributions from others, “as we have consistently done since our inception,” read the commission request report.

Expected outside funds are shown in the budget at $47,500, while the city’s contribution to the gross budget of the commission would be $14,500.

However, the commission will only be receiving $7,500.

WildSafe BC

Last year was the third year of a three-year agreement of support from the cities of Rossland and Trail. Rossland Trail Bear Smart committee requested an additional three-year term with a financial commitment of $2,500 per year.

Council approved funding of $2,500 for 2014, but not the three-year term as was requested.

Kootenay Columbia Trails Society

The KCTS maintains and develops a network of designated, connected, accessible multi-use trails which serves all of the Lower Columbia communities (Rossland, Warfield, Trail, Montrose and Fruitvale plus RDKB Areas A and B) and visitors. The KCTS has operated for the past 15 years.

“The network is arguably the region’s, and certainly Rossland’s most important publicly funded recreational asset,” read a report from the society.

The network received in excess of 120,000 distinct uses per year. Sixty per cent of Rossland residents report using the KCTS trail network greater than three times per Last year the society received $19,000 out of its $103,000 budget. The total requested funds from the city for 2014 are $20,500.

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary East End committee contributes $69,000 to the society’s budget.

The Kootenay-Columbia Trails Society will be funded with the amount of $20,500 for 2014, the amount they requested, and they will be responsible for all trails within the City of Rossland.

editor@rosslandnews.com

Library side

The Rossland Public Library averaged over 100 visits per day in 2012. In 2012 it had 1,834 residents with active memberships, or 51.2 per cent of the city’s residents, 10 per cent higher than the provincial average.

In 2013, the library received 81 per cent of its funding from the city, 15 per cent from the province, with four per cent from “other.”

But the library in Rossland has consistently received lower per capita local government support from 2008 onwards in comparison to the provincial average—the average among smaller communities with similar populations—and other resort municipalities.

A study done for the Toronto Public Library has shown that for every dollar spent on library service patrons received $5.83 worth of service.

Using the 2011 data of services provided at the Rossland Library (31,789 circulations) the value of library services is nearly $960,000, which is nearly eight-fold the investment from the city.

“This also demonstrates that community value of the library, while more intangible, is crucial to building a strong and vibrant Rossland,” read a report from the library.

 

 

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