Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A preamble to the cuts to come?

The City of Prince Rupert, through it's council on Monday night provided the first hint that hard times in the city, could mean some funding hits to popular programs and services.

The Northern View provided us with our first glimpse of what could be a rather lean budget year for many organizations, services and departments that depend on the city for funding or partial funding.

Leading off the cuts announced from Monday's council meeting was the Prince Rupert Library which will see a funding reduction of 15,000 dollars, the library had asked for $537,000 to maintain current services, however that wasn't something that the city was willing to provide an in fact reduced the library's funding from 2009 levels by that fifteen thousand dollars to this years amount of a grant of $500,000.

The golf course too entered 2010 with an increase on its mind, seeking a grant of 120,000 dollars, but instead will receive $72,750 which is down significantly from the 2009 level of funding of $85,000.

The Lester Centre of the Arts wasn't affected as much financially as the library and golf course, denied its initial request of $135,000, the Centre will maintain its 2009 level of funding of $110,000.

The Prince Rupert and Port Edward Economic Development Commission also managed to hold its own receiving the same $90,000 it received last year, but denied of its request for $96,000 for this year.

The tone of the discussion at council on Monday appeared to be one that will lead up to perhaps more disappointment for other groups, departments and organizations, with Councillor Bedard calling this budget year the worst one that she has seen in her 14 years on council.

The most controversial of these early announcements will most likely be the Library cuts, with the Library the one service that is most likely used by those with the least resources in the city, how the cutbacks in funding affect the delivery of services there, will have a direct impact on those that find the Library a valuable asset to have available and one on which they depend on daily.

Less inclined to garner sympathy will be the cuts to the golf course, which many in town probably feel could best be able to handle increased fees to those that use that particular recreation service in the city. Owing to the nature of the sport and the cost of equipment associated with it, the end users are most likely to be in the best position to absorb any changes to the current pricing structure that may reflect the budget cutbacks. In fact there may be more than a few residents who probably think that the golf course should be a stand alone, self financing entity anyways.

There's not much that can be done about the Lester Centre situation, a large auditorium such as that would eat up a fair amount of grant money at the best of times. Though some may suggest that a reduction in hours of operations, and maybe reducing the schedule of events might help defray some of the costs of delivering culture in the city.

Over at the Economic Development Office, the current EDO may be given a mulligan (if we can borrow from the golf course) over the current situation, due to her recent arrival at the job.

However, some Rupertites looking back at the list of achievements at Economic Development over the years may wonder what it is we have received for our investments in that department. As can be seen fairly readily, there has been relatively little industrial or commercial development in the region for a number of years, a situation that must frustrate the local population which has been funding that office in the anticipation of changing fortunes, only to find that a comprehensive approach to attracting investment has come up short.

It of course is a department that is needed if the city is to grow and the tax base increase, though without tangible results to show, one wonders how long funding requests will be meeted with acceptance by the tax payers.

With the city operating at levels that exceed the revenues that are coming in, one imagines that the entire process cannot remain sustainable for long.

Calls for change may soon be made, with a variety of opinions offered on what programs and services this city should continue on with and which ones perhaps might be best handed off to other operators. This council may wish to find out further from its citizens what they feel are the true civic necessities and which ones are no longer viable for a city struggling with its finances.

With more budget considerations to come, 2010 is shaping up to be a challenging year for the city, how this council handles those challenges could dictate their legacy and whether they will be able to maintain the trust of those who put them into office.
CFTK TV 7 reporter Sahar Nassimdoost provided a review of some of City council's plans.

No comments: