Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Council to reduce funding for Library and redistribute some of the funds to the Museum and Lester Centre

The Prince Rupert Library will have
to reconsider some its operations after
a funding reduction to its Community Grant
Prince Rupert City Council returned to its deliberations on the 2016 Community Enhancement Grants process Monday, having deferred a decision from December to the first meeting of the New Year to allow for further research on the issue by the City's Chief Financial Officer.

With a chance over the holiday break to review the new figures and notes from the Finance Office, Council still found some need for changes, receiving a motion from Councillor Wade Niesh that would alter the previously recommended distribution of grant money for the major grant recipients.

Councillor Niesh led off the discussion on the Grant formulas providing his motion to Council on the distribution of funding which would remain at the $850,000 level for 2016,  but recommending to Council that the City reduce the amount of funding for the Library and redistribute a portion of it to the Museum of Northern British Columbia and the Lester Centre.

Councillor Wade Niesh outlined his thoughts
Monday on how best to address Community
Enhancement Grant issues 
Under Niesh's recommendations, the Library would see their grant reduced by $66,0000 dollars for 2016 and a cap put on that institution at $500,000.

As part of that redistribution the City would then add 15,000 dollars for the Museum of Northern British Columbia as well as increase the grant by $15,000 for the Performing Arts Centre.

Those changes to the funding formula, while reducing the overall grant money to the Prince Rupert Library would increase the level for the Museum to $126,000 for 2016 and pushing upwards the Lester Centre of the Arts level to $125,000 for the year ahead.

As the councillor explained to Council, his thinking on reducing the amount for the Library came from the fact that they receive the largest amount of all the grant recipients and from his belief that they are the one organization on that list that could best reduce hours and services and still remain in business.

The recommendation spurred on a wide ranging discussion on the nature of funding Community Enhancement grants, with Councillors Cunningham and Randhawa then suggesting making use of funding from the city's Legacy Corporation Fund to cover off some of the Funding requests for this years cycle.

The issue of how to make use of the Legacy Fund and how the City's councillors see that pool of money then largely took over the discussion and proved to be one which Councillor Cunningham had much to comment on. With Mr. Cunningham noting that now is not the time to be cutting back on local groups and that he considers such groups as every much a part of major projects in the city and just as deserving of funding from the fund for this year as some of the other projects that the city has tapped from it over the last year.

"If we found money for major planning for projects out of the Legacy Fund, that Legacy Fund is owned by the people of this town it is the residents money as well as the council's money and we've been using it to plan for Major projects and part of Major projects is the recreation, the theatre, the museum and the library and other cornerstones that have been built up over the years" ... "I don't see any reason why we can't use any of the funds from Legacy for one year   -- Councillor Cunningham making his case for tapping the Legacy Fund to provide funding for Community Grant applicants for this year.

That was an approach to the issue that met a fair bit of resistance from Councillor Mirau who stressed his desire to see the Legacy Funding not be used for anything other than planning for Major Projects, reinforcing the view to Council that the fund should not be used for Operation budget concerns.

Councillor Mirau followed up with an amendment to the motion under discussion, noting that Council doesn't want to keep having these funding discussions each year and haggling over amounts, asking that staff develop a standardized multi year funding agreement with the major grant recipients that would come into effect before the next round of Community enhancement grants in September.

Councillor Cunningham suggested that be made into a separate motion, preferring to deal with the motion at hand at the moment. A suggestion that the Mayor observed that he didn't think that Councillor Mirau's motion mattered and didn't require a special motion.

For his contribution to the discussion the Mayor echoed many of Councillor Mirau's thoughts on the nature of the Legacy Fund and shared much of the same hesitation when it came to dipping into the Legacy Fund for purposes other than major project planning.

Both Councillor Mirau and the Mayor noted that the Library could access other monies from other potential sources, while they appeared to suggest that the Museum and Lester Centre might not have as much success in alternative funding sources.

During the course of the discussion Councillor Randhawa also made some valid points in his quest for a one year dip into the Legacy money to cover the shortfalls, noting how the Library serves a fairly important function in the community.

It's a theme that should be well received by many in the community, particularly for those that may be wondering how the city is using the that pool of money from the Legacy Fund.

Besides its place as a centre of learning in the community, the Library also offers one of the few places for children in the community to feel safe after school and provides one of few resources available in the community for the homeless and for those families that are living on fixed incomes.

Councillor Cunningham for his part returned to his thoughts when it comes to the city having dipped into the Legacy Fund for other things and that he did not see any problem with using the fund for the grant process for this year and he did not believe that any precedent would be set.

The discussion came to an end with another recommendation from Councillor Mirau that Council hold to the current process, when it comes to how they handle the Community Enhancement Grant Funding and what they should remain focused on their original considerations when it comes to the Legacy Fund.

In his closing notes on the issue, the Mayor noted that he is in favour of the motion with the amendment at this time, calling Councillor Niesh's recommendation one that offers the middle road and gets what is needed done.

After a few more comments on the theme from Councillor Cunningham suggested that the Council members were clearly at a stalemate in the discussion and recommended the Mayor call the vote, with Councillor Niesh's motion and Councillor Mirau's amendment then adopted.

The full discussion over the Community Grant Funding and the theme of how best to use the Legacy Fund revenues can be found from the City's Video Archive starting at the 45 minute mark.

Further items from Monday's Council Session can be found from our Timeline feature.

For more items related to City Council Discussions see our archive page here.

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