Community groups make budget appeals

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The Council Budget Committee (CBC) – comprised of all members of Airdrie City council – began public meetings Oct. 26, hearing first from groups requesting City-funding in the 2016 operating budget.

Airdrie Housing Limited (AHL) Managing Director Shelley Sweet requested $160,000 be allocated in the City’s 2017 operating budget to the group, which provides low-cost affordable housing in the city – up $10,000 from its 2016 request.

“Combined with additional expenses in property taxes and a more robust waste management service, as well as the tightening of soft areas on the operating side, the expenses over revenue was in a shortfall position,” Sweet said. “This situation prompted the board to request an additional $10,000 in our operating grant. AHL has not made a request for additional funds since 2011.”

One of the issues members of the CBC questioned Sweet about was the proposed construction of a new low-cost housing and office/retail building on the site of the old RCMP Detachment on Edmonton Trail.

The project was put on hold until a new tenant can be found for the second floor after North Rocky View Community Links (NRVCL) pulled out of the project in March. Sweet said the AHL board is continuing to look for a suitable tenant, while redefining the project to include 38 rental units instead of the 21 initially proposed.

“Currently the amended application as well as the development permit application have been placed on hold for six months to allow the board time to explore the options fully,” she said.

The old RCMP building was demolished in December 2015 in anticipation of construction of the new building with NRVCL as the second floor tenant.

Council approved a motion to accept the AHL report for information and to include the request in the 2017 budget deliberations.

Airdrie Public Library (APL) Director Pam Medland was joined by APL Finance Committee Chair Dustin Fedun and APL Board Member Tanner Desrosiers to present the library’s request for funding for 2017.

The APL request includes $1,568,362 in an operating grant – up 5.18 per cent from 2016 – and a $226,302 grant – up 11.3 per cent from 2016 – to cover lease and common cost payments to Airdrie Main Street Square (AMSQ), the owner of the building.

“The biggest thing that continues to challenge us is facility size,” Fedun said. “One of the things that has impacted our business is we’ve had to introduce caps to our programs throughout the year to ensure building code compliance.”

The library currently has 27.3 full-time staff equivalents and had 19,019 cardholders in 2015 with 20,000 projected for 2016 and 21,000 in 2017.

According to Medland, library visits are recorded using a laser counter at the main doors. In 2015, there were 173,788 visits to the library. Staff and deliveries enter through a separate door and are not counted in this total.

Council approved the APL report for information and a motion to include the funding request in its 2017 budget deliberations with Councillor Allan Hunter voting against the motion. Hunter provided no reason for his vote.

The Airdrie Health Benefits Co-operative (AHBC) also appeared in front of the CBC to request $100,000 from the 2016 Operating Budget. According to Dr. Julian Kyne, the funds would be used to pay consultants assisting the group with setting up a health co-operative and to partially pay the salary of a chief executive officer (CEO). According to Kyne, the AHBC is currently recruiting for this new position.

Director of Corporate Services Lucy Wiwcharuk told council mitigation measures implemented by the City in the first quarter of 2016 in reaction to the slump in the Alberta economy had a positive impact on the City’s operating budget.

“We do have the ability to cover the $100,000 within the 2016 budget with the projected savings,” she said. “Given that those projections aren’t quite finalized yet, our early figures are indicating a surplus of approximately $1.8 million.”

These mitigation measures included delaying hiring new employees previously approved in the 2016 Operating Budget, a freeze on travel by staff to the United States, monitoring training budgets and delaying implementation of the 2015 compensation review. There was also a delay of two months in the hiring of two new RCMP members.

The CBC unanimously approved recommending to City council that the $100,000 requested by the AHBC be taken out of the 2016 operating budget surplus.

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