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BBBS, historical society funding in question

 Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe

Funding amounts in the City of Lacombe’s 2018 draft operating budget for Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Lacombe and District, as well as the Lacombe and District Historical Society will be adjusted by the time council goes to vote on Dec. 18.

During budget workshops, council had allotted $10,000 in funding to BBBS. At their regular meeting on Monday night, however, some councillors were wary they would be setting an unwanted precedent moving forward, including Coun. Reuben Konnik.

“While I appreciate this council’s willingness to do that, we haven’t typically funded BBBS so I just wanted to throw caution to the wind that once we go down this road, there’s going to be an expectation next year that funding will continue,” he said.

Members of council said that during presentations in their initial budget workshops BBBS had not actually asked for a specific dollar figure with regards to funding. As such, Coun. Cora Hoekstra agreed with Coun. Konnik.

“We, in essence, are communicating that we’re just going to gift someone $10,000...That’s why I think this could be precedent setting and concerning,” she said.

“We do want to use the system we have in place. There’s going to be other agencies that say let’s skip the FCSS route and go to the city and minimize what we want FCSS to do for the city.”

Mayor Grant Creasey said he disagreed that they were setting a precedent, as any service group has the ability to apply to speak to council, but any requests made would still have to be accepted by council.

Rather than repeal funding for BBBS, however, council settled on increasing the external grant funding program for Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), with the hope that at least a portion would go towards BBBS, although there is no guarantee that they will receive funding at all.

The historical society, meanwhile, had asked for an additional $10,000 this year during presentations to the new council. The request was originally denied.

Following the Budget Open House, however, where historical society Executive Director Marie Peron was in attendance, Hoekstra suggested they honour the initial request and bump up their funding from the 2017 level of $32,500 to $42,500.

“Marie came to the open house...She was very eloquent in her desire for us to fund them to a greater degree,” Hoekstra said. “She reminded us that we like to advertise our city as being a historical city, yet we did not want to support increased efforts of their society.”

Other operating budget highlights include a one per cent increase to Lacombe Police Service (LPS) members, and a 0.4 per cent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to all other city employees.

During the meeting, there was no discussion on changing the property tax rate from its proposed 1.3 per cent increase, which would garner approximately $176,800 for the city.

The overall budget is expected to be a balanced $35,581,450.

Budget survey feedback

Council received feedback from the Budget Open House held on Thursday, Nov. 16.

Around 25-30 people were in attendance, with 24 responding to the online survey.

When asked if the proposed 1.3 per cent property tax increase was appropriate to maintain current service levels, 13 responders (56.5 per cent) said yes, while 10 (43 per cent) said no.

In additional comments provided to council, some said the increase was better than last year, but others were clearly frustrated by taxes being raised once again even if the hike is less substantial than previous years.

Suggestions included a general need to look at where to downsize and cutting back on “the nice to have,” while others were more specific, suggesting the city downsize personnel in the Lacombe Police Service, and axe $300,000 budgeted for playground upgrades.

2018 Capital Budget

The capital budget is also likely to see some tweaks over the course of the next few weeks.

During their last regular meeting, council indicated they were going to consider a stormwater outlet project for Henner’s Pond. The project is required for development in the area to continue, including for the Charis Village development for senior citizens.

Konnik said he wanted to see it become part of the 2018 capital plan.

“I think this is a hugely important capital venture,” he said. “It affects hundreds of homes in the north city area. We have a significant development with the Charis group that wants to build tomorrow, but can’t because of this. I’d ask council to seriously consider putting this in the 2018 capital plan.

The capital budget currently has identified $2.528 million in new expenditures spread across 36 projects for a total of $17.703 million. The bulk of the capital budget involves $15,175,608 for the West Area Servicing project and Hwy 12 and 76 St. intersection upgrades. The rest includes various street upgrades and designs and sidewalk replacements, as well as $128,000 for a new paved taxiway to connect future hangars to the runway.

Changes will be made to the current draft budget for the Dec. 18, 2017 regular meeting, where it will be presented to council.

For more information on the 2018 Operating and Capital Budgets, visit lacombe.ca/doing-business/finance-budgets/annual-budget-process.

-abarrett@postmedia.com 



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