Prince Rupert City Council dedicated just over half of their Monday evening City Council session to discuss how they would approach the 2023 Community Enhancement Grant program and by the time they were done some applicants would be celebrating, while others will have to wait til next year or perhaps even beyond to hope for a more positive result.
The process for the night began with a review of a report from Chief Financial Officer Corinne Bomben, which as we noted in our preview notes of Monday, had counselled of some percolating financial challenges ahead for the city and how to fulfill all the requests, Council members would be looking at a tax increase of just over 1 percent next year.
"The total amount of funding requested by all CEG applicants combined with the funding by agreements is estimated at $1,886,000 (2022 $1,640,000). Within this total is an increase in the amount requested by existing applicants of approximately $136,000 (69% more than funded in 2022) and near $24,000 in funding requested by new applicants.
As in the 2022 budget year, it is predicted that the operating fund will face funding challenges. There is minimal new taxation from new builds expected, along with potential federal grant in lieu losses and annual major industrial taxation reductions.
This combined with anticipated cost increases due to inflation results in an expected tax increase larger than that adopted in the 2022 budget. Capital projects continue to be financed through as many other sources of revenues as possible to mitigate fee and tax increases for ongoing infrastructure renewal.
A 1% tax increase is estimated to bring in approximately $200,000 in 2023. If Council were to award all the requests of the repeat and new applicants, the tax increase required to finance community enhancement grants would amount to approximately 0.80%. Adding in the funding by agreement/special conditions organizations, the tax increase rises by 0.40% for a total of 1.2%." -- The key narrative to CFO Corinne Bomben's report to Council on the Community Grant process for 2023.
Mayor Herb Pond noted that on the night the council members should keep in mind the potential tax consequences and that: "It's a simple as if the money goes up, somebody's gotta pay for it right and so I ask you to keep that in mind"
To make the process of evaluation easier, the Mayor rearranged the listings, addressing them in three blocks depending on whether they were recurring requests, as well to separate the larges asks on the night.
As the discussion into the topic evolved it became clear that the Councillors had little interest in the tax hike options and instead began the process of reviewing the list and making some decisions, a few of them hard ones which meant saying No.
Among those with comments to the difficult decisions on the night some of the key observations included:
Councillor Wade Niesh who spoke of the financial concerns facing the city in the year ahead as the key element towards the discussion
"I actually want to speak to all of these as a whole, so you know unfortunately I think all of these groups are great groups for our community. I think they are all doing wonderful things and we all want to see trails, and I love the fact that the Gymnastics Club is growing and the Swim Club is there and you know these are not deserving groups
But you know as in the report as noted we are coming into a challenging year, this year for our budget coming up and I have a hard time wanting to add to that hard time that's going to be coming for us. And it's probably not going to be a wonderful year for our budget of 2023 I think we've got a a lot of challenges ....
To me I just feel that at this time, I'm not willing to put my support into any of these, not because I don't want to but because I don't think its a discussion we can have at this time owing to financial reasons. -- Councillor Wade Niesh
Two Council members, Nick Adey and Barry Cunningham spoke of slippery slopes that Council should consider on the night.
"I think we're facing some uncertainties in terms of our budgeting, I think that's been made very clear in the analysis that cane with the report from the Chief Financial Officer .
I want to point out just a couple of others sort of wrinkles in this.
You've got a number of organizations that are quite broad in terms of their membership and the number of people involved in them.
So on one hand you could look at an organization like that and say well we should support it because it's obviously of interest to a lot of people.
On the other hand you could say that it's of interest to a lot of people which means they have a broader resource base from which to pursue the funds that they need to do the things that they do.
The problem is that they're not alone, so you have on this list, you have the Swim Club, you have the Gymnastics Club, we also in the community have other organizations that are really very similar and probably face very similar challenges.
So my concern is that we not put ourselves in the position of doing something for one organization and facing the precedent that we set an find ourselves feeling that we have to do the same thing for other organizations, that may or may not have come forward but they could look at this and say whoa we should jump in on that. That's a very slippery slope and I'm not sure I want to go down that slope. -- Councillor Nick Adey
"In kind is one thing, but like, we were sort of put into a corner where we had to lease that warehouse off Canfisco and we have to pay for that. And you know I agree with Councillor Forster here if its chairs or tables then fine.
But that's that slippery slope that Councillor Adey was talking about.
If we start giving up revenue for in kind for rentals of places, pretty soon you've got the youth soccer who are talking about going into that building, as well as the fields.
You've got Minor Hockey you've got a lot of other organizations that do a lot of good and enhance athletic ability ... we have programs where you can feed into them ... one of them is Guns and Hoses ... where they give money to an athletic fund for Every kid gets to play.
And so if there's any difficulties with people not having the initial money to get involved with these they can go to those programs and they're very good ...
Starting to subsidize different groups for their actual usage of facilities in the city is that slippery slope we were talking about and it would snowball and get out of hand" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham
Councillor Niesh returned to the discussion and he also echoed some similar concerns over the need to be aware of concerns of having to do it for one they would have to do it for all and the impact that would have on the city's budget concerns.
A more detailed overview of the back and forth of discussion on the Grant program can be reviewed from our Council Timeline Feature.
The original requests as listed in Monday's Agenda looked as follows:
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As for the final list, Mayor Pond relayed the decision making one item after another to wrap up Monday's Review, the dollar amount or in kind contribution by the city listed below:
$5,000 and below
Prince Rupert Crimestoppers $500 in kind
AFFNO -- $1,000 in kind
Prince Rupert Seniors Centre -- $1,000 cash
CHSS Evergreen Program -- $1,000 in cash, $1,000 in kind
Prince Rupert Fire Department Guns and Hoses -- $1,000 in kind
Prince Rupert Skating Club -- $1,600 in kind
National Aboriginal Day Committee -- $2,500 in kind
Prince Rupert Navy League -- $4,500 in kind
$5,000 to $20,000
Prince Rupert HalloweenFest -- $6,000 in kind
Prince Rupert Wildlife Rehab Shelter -- $6,600 cash
Tourism Prince Rupert $17,000 cash
Prince Rupert Community Arts Council -- $20,0000
Prince Rupert Special Events Society -- $30,000 cash, $12, 000 in kind
Four applicants for 2023 did not receive approval for their requests
Prince Rupert Amateur Swim Club -- request of $35,267.71 -- 0 dollars awarded
Ecotrust Canada -- request of $30,000 -- 0 dollars awarded
Kaien Island Trail Enhancement Society -- request of $29,000 -- 0 dollars awarded
Prince Rupert Gymnastics Association -- request of $23,200 -- 0 dollars awarded
For a pair of applicants that did not find success in this year's application process, Councillor Nick Adey offered up some thoughts on how the future may unfold for them.
The councillor noting as to how both Ecotrust Canada and the Kaien Island Trail Enhancement Society efforts approach elements of the Official Community Plan.
"We should remember, that what they're objectives are, fall very much within the scope of what have been articulated in the Official Community Plan, with respect to local food growth on one hand and Quality of life through trail enhancement in the case of the Trail Society.
So I'm not opposing where we are at with these motions, I do think we're stuck in the vise of what we can pay for and what we can't.
What I would like to do though is offer the thought that as we pursue the directions that are undertaken under the Official Community Plan that we be mindful that these two organizations fit very well within that and that over time there may be ways that we can support them.
Perhaps not in the same form as a Community Enhancement Grant, so I don't think that saying no to them at this point, is the same as saying no to them, is kind of what I'm saying" -- Councillor Nick Adey
The remainder of the Grant Applications, those funded by agreement or Special Conditions did not make for any discussion as part of the Monday session.
That funding information is listed below:
You can review the full discussion by the Council members from the City's Video Archive which was the first item on the Agenda following its adoption on the night.
More expansive notes from the Monday's Council Session can be explored through our Council Timeline Feature.
Further background on Council Discussion topics is available here.