Region budget causing problems for community groups

Nick
Nick Moase
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As most organizations are creating their upcoming fiscal year budgets, the Region of Queens is still unsure where they stand on theirs. 

News from The Advance

The trouble comes down to the Bowater property in Queens County. The province took over the lands in December, and some tenants will be moving in to the mill site in this year. However the value of the property is still up in the air.

The Region in previous years collected around $900,000 annually in taxes from the site. A new assessment will likely come in the next couple of months, says Mayor Christopher Clarke, however he says until then they have put budget lines on hold that aren't time sensitive. One of those budget lines was the Grants to Organizations.

Clarke says they can't commit to the same level of grants as before, because if there is a significant reduction in revenue there will likely be cuts in many budget lines.

"We need to know what we're faced with, before we go out and say 'hey, we'd like to give you some money'," said Clarke.

The call for Grants to organizations normally goes out in December. Instead the Region sent out a letter saying they would delay the call until they had their own funding figured out. 

This has caused concern among some of those organizations that have come to rely on that funding.

 

The Queens County Museum gets around $5,000 annually, and has gotten this grant since at least the mid 1980's.

The museum's budget is around $104,000 a year between the museum and Perkins House. However with the cuts that have come over the past few years provincially, that funding is as stretched as far as it can go. They have had to cut museum staff hours and some programming.

"To add another $5,000 to our fundraising will be a very difficult challenge," says Linda Rafuse, director of the museum.

Rafuse is also president of the Milton Heritage Society, which runs the Milton Blacksmith Museum. They receive $1,250 a year from the Region. She says a cut would likely mean the Blacksmith museum would not reopen this year.

Waiting is not an option, because their budget needs to be submitted to the province now. If the funding is unknown, they can't factor it in.

George Mitchell, chairman of the museum board, is surprised council would put the funding on hold at all.  

"These organizations are what makes Queens County operate. They need this funding," he says. "We understand funding is tough everywhere, but when you start cutting away from them you're cutting away your lifeline."

Mitchell adds its only $46,000 to fund all of the yearly grants, and just not worth cutting for results.

 

The Queens County Fair Association got a grant of $6,000 from the Region of Queens last year.

Doreen Holdright, secretary of the association says when they heard the news it was a concern. Like most of the organizations on the list, they depend on the funding each year.

Getting a grant from the Region is also key to getting grants from federal sources as well. In their federal applications, due the end of January, they need to show that the municipality is supporting them or they do not qualify for the grant.

The association has been in contact with the Region though, to come up something to satisfy that condition. 

"They're working with us to see what can be put on paper to say they will support us, just so we won't lose it," she says.

Holdright adds they understand why the Region is delaying the grants. They are looking at alternatives to raise the money in the event they don't get as much funding as last year.

 

The Queens Early Childhood Development Association typically gets $5,000 a year from the Region of Queens. Despite being a provincial entity, they are not fully funded by the province. Each year they fundraise to top it off. The Region grant covered half of their fundraising needs.

Denise Lowe Whynot says the board has contacted the Region to work with them on this issue. In the meantime, the board has formed a fundraising committee to come up with plans to raise the rest if the Region cannot fund them this year.

 

Organizations: Bowater, Queens County Museum, Perkins House Milton Heritage Society Milton Blacksmith Museum Queens County Fair Association Queens Early Childhood Development Association

Geographic location: Queens

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