Fort St. John approves Base Budget Grant requests

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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.

Including $52,000 for the Victim's Services Agreement, $40,000 for the SPCA Poundkeeper Agreement, and all property tax exemptions and other funding, the City is providing these groups over $1.480 million.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, council approved $17,000 for the Fort St. John Community Arts Council, including $15,000 to administer grants to their members groups, and $2,000 for the Flower Pot Program. The Arts Council had requested $20,000 for member grants this year, due to an increased number of groups. It also receives a $7,500 Permissive Property Tax Exemption from the City for its Arts Post space.

The North Peace Justice Society has been approved for a $25,000 grant, the same amount as last year.

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The Fort St. John Women's Resource Society has been allocated $7,475 for its bus pass program, which will allow for 130 adult passes and 65 student passes. The Women's Resource Society had requested $9,890 due to the increased cost for bus passes. However, the City argues that it already heavily subsidizes transit fees. The FSJWRS also receives an 81 per cent Permissive Property Tax Exemption.

The Spirit of the Peace Powwow had their request for $5,000 denied, as it holds a surplus. However, this was a point of contention for some councillors, who feel the community benefits from the event. In the end, $1,000 from Council's conference hosting  budget was allocated to the powwow.

The North Peace Historical Society had its request for $10,000 approved. It also receives a $54,569 Permissive Tax Exemption from the City.

The North Peace Cultural Centre is receiving $250,000, the same as in 2012. However, City Council expressed concern that the Cultural Centre increasing the Fort St. John Library's rent is just a grab for more City funding, as the majority of its budget is paid by the City. As the second largest base budget grant recipient, the NPCC also receives a Permissive Property Tax Exemption of and estimated $117,831 as well as an annual Capital Project Loan amount of $104,593 dollars, for the last time in 2013.

Due to its increased rent, the Library requested an additional $40,000 for operating expenses this year. However, the increase was not approved, and it will receive $380,000, the largest grant-in-aid amount.

The Tourism Fort St. John Board will receive a grant of $36,000 in 2013, which is less than the $46,000 requested. The Board has received that amount in the past, but has not fully utilized the funding.

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The Fort St. John International Airshow is returning this year, and had requested $60,000 from the City. However, City Council has approved only $20,000 for next year.

Lastly, the Salvation Army had requested $100,000 to help build a new homeless shelter in Fort St. John. Council feels that further meetings and discussions are needed before going ahead with the project, which is not expected to go ahead until 2014 anyways. Any grant from the City would be matched by the Province if the shelter was owned by B.C. Housing. The Salvation Army's request was turned down for 2013.

Council is supposed to ask itself three questions when considering base budget grant requests: where is the public good, is it aligned with the City's strategic goals, and is there a need?

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