Community groups and institutions seek Town funding

Morinville Festival Society Vice President David LeBel and President Paul Smith unveil a Town banner during their Nov. 25 presentation. – Lucie Roy Photo

by Tristan Turner

Council received budget presentations and funding requests from three groups Nov. 25 – the Morinville Festival Society, Morinville Community Library, and Morinville Cultural and Historical Society. Council did not make a decision on any of the presentations, but did give first reading to the 2015 budget, which includes some of the requested funds.

Festival Society seeks $45,000

First to present was the Morinville Festival Society, who had President Paul Smith and Treasurer David LeBel give a presentation on the expense breakdown for 2014. The Society organizes events like the St. Jean Baptiste Festival and the Morinville Food and Jam Festival, as well as the local year-round Farmers’ Market.

LeBel gave a breakdown of all costs incurred by organization in 2014 and informed Council that the organization currently had more than $8,000 in surplus funds. President Smith was quick to point out “that money’s been spent” on fees associated with using the Community Cultural Centre.

Smith told councillors that he would request $35,000 for his organization, plus an additional $10,000 for what Smith described as “making a cash flow”, or reserves needed for “future stability”.

Councillor Ladouceur was disappointed that there was no budget for 2015 in the presentation, and only a breakdown of spending for 2014. “If I came to the residents of Morinville and said that the budget is ‘roughly’ going to be the same as 2014’s, just give me your tax dollars, I don’t think it would stand, so I would really like to see one,” said Ladouceur. Smith responded by saying that Council would quickly get a thorough budget for 2015.

Smith went on to say that his organization’s transparency to the Town was “second to none” and that he hoped to get the Festival Society to a place where it would not have to rely on personal investments from their membership.

LeBel and Smith also announced that they would be “providing more value” for the Town’s sponsorship of events by increasing the size of banners displayed at events with the Town of Morinville logo on it. They demonstrated this value by unveiling two sponsor banners of differing sizes and suggesting something similar would be offered to the town.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe estimated the length of the two banners to be 20 feet and broke the sponsorship request down by the foot. “So we’re looking at twenty feet of banner for $35,000,” Dafoe said. “That’s $1,750 bucks a foot. What else have you got?” LeBel responded that he felt the value of advertising that the banners provide is much greater than the actual cost of the banners themselves and that they would be displayed at the Farmers’ Market in addition to the summer festival.

Councillor Turner praised the organization for some positive achievements during 2014. “What this shows is that you’ve dealt with some deficit issues from the previous year, held two successful events, covered that deficit, and have come up this year in a break-even situation.”

keithLibrary seeks increase for staffing

The library funding presentation consisted primarily of a video shown to Council that included figures for the year of 2014 up until the end of October. In the first 10 months of 2014 the library was already at 124 per cent on electronic downloads compared to 2013, reference questions were already 50 per cent higher than last year’s total, and County memberships were already 10 per cent higher than 2013, a year that saw a 34 per cent increase in County cardholders over 2012.

The video presentation also included a request for the Town of Morinville to increase the Town funding to the library to $307,178.45, an amount $56,698.60 more than their request in 2014. According to the presentation, three hourly employees are needed at the front desk during the day and on busy evenings when popular programs take place. Additionally, a new salaried supervisor position will be created which will be in charge of training and supervising front desk staff, processing new items for the library collection, program planning, and volunteer coordination.

In addition to the video, Library Manager Isabelle Cramp and Library Board Chair Keith Norris answered questions from council and presented additional information.

Councillor Brennan Fitzgerald, Council’s representative on the Library board asked what the impact of not granting the additional dollars would be. “If we [council] choose to not give you as much as you are asking for this year, how is that going to affect your core services?” he asked. Cramp said staff hours and operational hours – particularly weekend hours – would have to be decreased if the new funding is not delivered.

Councillor Rob Ladouceur also wondered about other funding sources. “I’m curious if you have approached the County at all requesting more funding since their [residents’] usership has grown as well.” Cramp responded by saying that the library boards of Sturgeon County recently met with County Council to advocate for an increase. The current County library funding sits at about $10 per capita, while Cramp said they would like to see $17 per capita, which is closer to the provincial average of around $20 per capita in County funding.

Additionally, the Board and management are budgeting no dollars for programs in 2015; instead they are making a commitment to fully fund programs through sponsorships, donations, fundraisers, and grants.

Mayor Holmes was troubled by the move. “It’s a significant amount of money that we budget for the library,” she said. “I understand that it’s a service that we provide, but part of the service is programming, so to walk in and for us to say that were giving $307,000 to not be guaranteed really any programming makes me nervous.”

Cramp responded to the Mayor’s comments by saying that the library is actively pursuing funding for new programming, including the Summer Reading Program, but that volunteer programs, including theLego club, writer’s group and other groups would not be affected because they are funded from existing fundraising efforts by the Friends of the Morinville Library and run by a group of volunteers.

murrayMuseum seeks small increase

Council also heard a presentation from Murray Knight, Treasurer for the Morinville Museum. This presentation thoroughly broke down all anticipated expenses for 2015, including the notable capital investment of $4,000 into a new sign for the museum to be placed in St. Jean Baptiste Park, replacing the Alberta’s 75th Anniversary sign currently there.

The Museum is seeking $94,000 from the town in 2015, an increase of $1,000 from the 2014 ask.

Knight also suggested to Council that the Museum might need a new facility at some point in the future. However, this was not included in the proposed 2015 budget and there is no fundraising plan in place.

Notice of disclosure: The author of this article is an employee of the Morinville Public Library

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