Base Budget Grant meetings begin in Fort St. John

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Erica Fisher

Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and energeticcity.ca in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

The Fort St. John Public Library Association is requesting an increase of $40,000 this year to $420,000. The library has seen a 130 per cent increase in active cardholders since 2010, and would like to increase their programming, especially for teenagers, adults and seniors.

"What do we have for teens at the library? Hunger Games was run in the spring and we had great feedback from them," says Board Chair L.J. Lawson. "They said, 'we want more!', and we just don't have more; we don't have the capacity for more right now."

The library is also interested in a bigger venue, as they say they have the smallest square footage per capita of any library in the province.

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"Realistically, to provide the services that this community needs, we need about twice the space," argues Lawson. The library also receives funding from Peace River Regional District Areas B and C in the amount of $85,800.

The Fort St. John Arts Council is also requesting an increase of $5,000 to a total of $20,000, plus $2,000 for the Flower Pot Program. Board member Margaret May explains that their membership has greatly increased, including three new member groups this year, but that their funding hasn't increased since 2004. The Arts Council distributes grants of up to $1,500 to its member groups.

"The problem, of course, is the money hasn't gone up," says May. "It's the same size pot divided by more different groups and their budgets are going up." The Arts Council also receives a Permissive Tax Exemption from the City in the amount of $7,543.

The North Peace Historical Society is seeking to renew their $10,000 grant from last year, in order to continue to preserve, store and display the history of the region. This year's grant money would go towards preserving artifacts, maintaining exhibits, as well providing education programming and building archives at the North Peace Museum.

"The services that the museum provides to the city are unique and valuable," says Museum Manager and Curator Heather Longworth. "We are essentially a municipal museum that is operated at very little cost to the municipality, as we are run by an independent non-profit society." The society survives on thousands of volunteer hours every year, as well as a Permissive Tax Grant of close to $55,000.

The North Peace Justice Society is again asking for $25,000 to maintain the Restorative Justice Program in the area. Co-ordinator Michelle LaBoucane argues that the program saves the city money in RCMP man power and gives back thousands of hours of community service. She says they have a 97 per cent completion rate, and the process means the offenders have to face their victims, and the victims don't feel excluded from the "costly and time consuming" court system process.

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"People would like harsher sentences for murderers and pedofiles, yes, but the feeling I get is the general public would like meaningful reparation  and quick decisive action," she says. "Restorative Justice can deliver this if given the resources." The Justice Society operates with a budget of $80,000, which is heavily dependent on an anticipated gaming grant from the province.

Lastly, the Fort St. John Women's Resource Society is asking the City for $13,674 for its Bus Pass Program, an increase from the $7,500 it received last year. The Bus Pass Program gives free bus passes to low-income mothers and their children. Executive Director Emily Goodman explains that the increase is due to the rise in bus pass rates, as well as the passes being supplied for 12 months instead of 9 months like last year. B.C. Transit recently increased its bus pass rates from $26 to $35 a month for students and $30 to $40 a month for adults.

6:12 "For example, the implications for a single mom with two kids, this additional cost for a bus pass if they were paying out of their own pocket would be $336 extra a year," points out Goodman. 7:09 "To some of us it might not seem like a lot, but it really does make a difference when you're pinching your pennies to make those ends meet."

Between 12 and 36 passes are given out each month to women on fixed incomes, or who face other transportation barriers.

In total, there are 13 requests for grants-in-aid for 2013. These requests total $1,112,674, which is almost $265,000 more than the $848,000 given out last year, not including Permissive Tax Exemptions.
 

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