External agencies set to receive modest funding increases

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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External agencies are set to receive modest municipal grant increases this year, city council determined during Friday’s budget committee meeting.

 

Council’s decision came after a lengthy plea from Coun. Don Cody to approve budget increases to external agencies.

“I think we have to look at this issue really seriously with regard to third parties,” he said, adding that most of the external agencies the city sends money to are run primarily by volunteers.

Pulling the Prince Albert Historical Society aside, Cody asserted that Prince Albert’s museums are underfunded when compared with others in the province.

“That historical society is probably doing more good work for this city than any other historical society and/or museum operation in this province,” he concluded.

Not as keen as Cody to fund external agencies, Mayor Greg Dionne questioned Cody’s reasoning.

“Why should every increase be on the back of city operations, when they should be looking (for efficiencies)?” Dionne asked.

“We’re training them to come to us … At the end of the day, nickels and dimes add up.

“The biggest champions we have in our community are volunteers. But, at some point, too, you can only support them so much because the taxpayer will say ‘Woah!’”

In the end, the city’s elected officials voted in favour of every one of administration’s recommended external agency budget increase except for a $9,570 Prince Albert Historical Society increase to pay for a part-time office administrator.

The order paper city council worked off of during Friday’s meeting did not include the new configuration of the Prince Albert Arts Board or the Mann Art Gallery’s funding increase request of more than $22,334.

Everything E. A. Rawlinson Centre, Prince Albert Arts Board or Mann Art Gallery-related that council approved on Friday is status quo.

As such, they approved a Prince Albert Arts Board grant of $287,270 -- the same grant issued last year, covering both the E. A. Rawlinson Centre and the Mann Art Gallery.

This isn’t the only funding these centres receive. A separate budget item within the community services budget reveals a building operation cost of $145,520, bringing the E. A. Rawlinson Centre and Mann Art Gallery’s total budgeted city subsidy to $432,720.

This year’s total subsidy is $38,400 less than last year’s -- a decrease explained primarily by a reduction in utilities and maintenance costs.

Although the John. M. Cuelenaere Public Library requested a capital investment of $550,000 during a public forum on Monday, city council did not address this request on Friday.

That historical society is probably doing more good work for this city than any other historical society and/or museum operation in this province. Don Cody

Council did, however, approve an $84,710 increase in staffing costs and the addition of a part-time position, as well as an $8,490 collections increase.

This is on top of the Wapiti Regional Library’s status-quo grant of $210,000, the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library’s status quo grant of $1,443,900 and a $24,720 maintenance cost within the community services department.

This brings the library system’s total municipal subsidy to $1,771,820, this year.

External agency increases also included a $4,360 increase to seniors transportation and a $42,740 increase to special needs transportation -- both to maintain current levels of service.

City council also also OK’d a $23,000 increase in its city pound keeper and animal protection agency fee, as previously agreed to with the Prince Albert SPCA, bringing it to $213,000 this year.

Prior to voting in favour of a status quo Prince Albert Historical Society grant of $48,470, Coun. Mark Tweidt urged city communications manager Kiley Bear to communicate the true, total cost of such facilities.

Although Tweidt insisted that the media only reports on “confrontational issues” and would “never” report such information:

The community services department has budgeted $124,220 toward city museums, bringing this year’s total, including the society’s $48,470 grant, to $172,690.

This total represents a $94,770 decrease from last year’s municipal subsidy.

Museum salaries, wages and benefits are dropping by $22,090 this year as a result of paring down its summer tour guide staff from 10 to eight.

The Prince Albert Tourism and Marketing Bureau has taken on tour duties at the Evolution of Education Museum and the Police and Corrections Museum at a cost of only $6,000, representing a total cost savings to the city of $16,090.

Most of the rest of this year’s museum budget decrease has to do with a drop in capital work, with last year’s Diefenbaker House foundation repairs and other smaller projects now complete. 

All of the 2014 budget decisions council has made to this point are tentative, with the more formal budget process expected to take place during a city council meeting in the near future.

Organizations: Prince Albert Historical Society, Mann Art Gallery, Prince Albert Arts Board E. A. Rawlinson Centre Prince Albert Wapiti Regional Library John M. Cuelenaere Public Library Prince Albert Tourism and Marketing Bureau Education Museum Police and Corrections Museum Diefenbaker House

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