Budget ABCs: The Cost of a 0% increase

Budget ABCs: The Cost of a 0% increase

Last night at our Budget Meeting we heard from the ABCs – the City’s associations, boards and commissions – St. Catharines Public Library Board (SCPL), FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre Board, Niagara Airport Commission, Meridian Centre and Canada Games Park.

Each of the ABCs were asked to present along with their original budget, a budget that was a 0% increase.  The two that I want to focus on are the St. Catharines Public Library Board (SCPL) and FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre Board (FOPAC).

First up was the St. Catharines Public Library who are asking for a 7% increase that included using $40,000 of their reserve fund to  pay for a new strategic plan.  We learned that 73% of their budget goes to staffing.  This is not an unusual amount for any organization, but it’s important to note that it leaves only 27% for all other costs.  Part of the increase will ensure that the library meets pay equity standards, that staff recieve living wage and that they library meets the collective bargaining agreements.  We also learned that provincial funding for libraries hasn’t changed since the 90’s – this is something the province has promised to do but never seems to actually get around to it.

The team from the SCPL said that if they were to achieve a 0% increase they would have to close local branches – Port Dalhousie and Merritton, reduce operating hours by 21% or about 50 hours and lay off staff.

The cost of a 0% increase will have a huge impact on our community especially Port Dalhousie and Merritton.

Next up was the FOPAC, who are asking for an increase of 8% or $140,999 to expand programming, keep rental costs low and meet collective agreements.  Along with the increase, the FOPAC will be using $60,000 from their sustainability fund to pay for a new strategic plan.

As part of their budget the increase, the FOPAC will be able to increase the amount of money that is given back to the city for the Cultural Capital Investment Fund by about 9%.

Like the library, the FOPAC provided an outline of what a 0% increase would mean.  It would mean cutting programming and services, increasing rental

rates and increasing ticket prices.

The programs that would get cut include: the award winning Celebration of Nations, ImPACt Arts education programs and student subsidies and The Film House programming.

Both of these budgets were sent back to their boards so that each organization can put exact dollar figures to the cuts with the ask that they be sent to the city before the next budget meeting on November 22.

I absolutely believe that we need to make sure that we keep tax increases low.  That as a city we need to be responsible with the tax dollars we collect – but not at the expense of shutting down libraries, cutting education programs for students or cutting funding to allow students to attend performances.

I am asking – please make your voice heard.

If you believe in the power of art.

If you believe that everyone should have access to books, the internet or the library of things.

If you believe that to have a vibrant liveable community we NEED the arts and libraries – contact your councillor and tell them.