By Tim Kalinowski on November 25, 2020.
The Finance Committee of city council voted to continue fee-for-service agreements on top of their tax-supported base funding for local community organizations for the next two years, but shaved 10 per cent off the top during Tuesday’s meeting.
The motion brought forth by Coun. Jeffrey Coffman granted just over $86,000 to the Allied Arts Council in 2021 and 2022, just over $68,000 to Southern Alberta Art Gallery in 2021 and 2022, almost $50,000 to the Lethbridge Sport Council in 2021 and 2022, just under $77,000 to the Southern Alberta Ethnic Association in 2021 and just under $74,000 in 2022, and Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens will receive and additional $154,000 in 2021 and $243,000 in 2022 as well as a one-time grant of $45,000 in 2021 and just over $89,000 in 2022.
The bequests represented about 10 per cent less of what the organizations had originally been asking for, except the SAEA, which got the amount it had requested after Deputy Mayor Rob Miyashiro rejected a further 10-per-cent reduction for the organization, which had already shaved off 40 per cent of its original ask to council during Monday’s presentation. Miyashiro said to take more from an organization which had already reduced its ask so significantly would purely be “punitive.” Miyashiro was supported by a majority of councillors in his position.
Despite most organizations coming down significantly in their fee-for-service agreement requests from the 2019 and 2020, not all on council were happy the organizations were not subjected to further reductions or perhaps reduced back to base-funding alone.
Coun. Joe Mauro said it was unacceptable in his mind for these organizations coming to ask for additional funding over their tax-supported base funding when others in the community have already had to take a significant financial hit in 2020.
Miyashiro responded the only reason the organizations had to ask for fee-for-service funding was because council refused in 2018 to give them the base-funding increases they were asking for at that time to cover their costs, and instead chose to address the shortages by fee-for-service two-year funding agreements. Thus these organizations’ dilemma in having to come to council in 2020 to ask for continued funding to survive through 2021 and 2022 despite the challenges currently facing the community.
In the end, the majority of council agreed the value the organizations in the community warranted their continued support, and the funding resolution passed by a vote of 6-3. Councillors Mauro, Blaine Hyggen and Ryan Parker were opposed.
Mayor Chris Spearman felt the council decision struck the right balance between supporting the valuable contribution these organizations make to the quality of life of the community, and recognizing the time of fiscal austerity the City is in.
“We had five community organizations make some adjustments to their budgets in order to continue to receive funding from the City of Lethbridge,” he said, “Those are all organizations that enhance the quality of life of the city. They are providing services; if we provided them as a municipality using City employees, and it would cost a lot more.”
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter