TRURO – After overspending its economic development grants policy budget by $4,500 this year, Colchester County council has decided future requests will be handled as unbudgeted expenses on a case-by-case basis.
“Council has been very supportive in the past for festivals and events within the County,” a staff report to council on a review of the municipality’s Economic Development Grant (EDC) budget says.
“The economic spin off for the county and the level of quality events and festivals that are coming to our region is impressive making Colchester a destination for hosting events,” the report continued.
The county’s current EDG annual budget is $36,000. Council had previously approved a total of $40,500 in EDG grants for this year, providing the Truro Centurions Swim Club receives approval to host three provincial meets and uses the entire $4,500 it has been allotted.
But the report said pending requests for grants that staff are aware of will require an additional $14,000, which would bring this year’s budget to $50,000.
But some council members including Mayor Bob Taylor and Councillor Doug MacInnis expressed concern that limiting the budget to $50,000 may not take care of all the upcoming requests, especially in light of the fact that the municipality is responsible for economic development activities now that the Colchester Regional Development Agency no longer exists.
“That was one of my concerns, was a limit of $50,000,” especially this early in the fiscal year, Taylor said. “If we are going to set a cap we might want to go higher than that. In my opinion it would be great if $50,000 was enough but.”
“My concern is just that. Is $50,000 enough,” he said. “What’s going to happen in two months time when we have another $20,000 (in requests) in front of us. Obviously the $36,000 is not enough and this is going to have to be increased not just this year but in future years. But we could have some great things come forward … I don’t see how it has to be that number.”
Given that the financial spin off to the area of some of the potential economic development ideas is “incredible”, he said, added, “… if we are going to fund these things we have to have money to do it with.”
Coun. Tom Taggart, however, argued against increasing the EDG budget.
“I’m not interested in adding any more money to that budget,” he said, adding that such requests may have to be dealt through another area of the municipal coffers.
“But I’m not interested in putting an open-ended budget out there that everybody can come to us. I recognize the value of economic development as much as anybody else does,” he said. “For me it’s starting to become alarming when I open up my council package and the first six items on the agenda are requests for funding. And I believe its’ beginning to get carried away.
“We need to be a little bit more stringent with the taxpayer’s money.”
In actuality there were four funding requests totaling $39,000, all of which were approved. They included $1,000 for the 2014 4-H provincial show; $2,500 for the Truro Theatre Society to assist with marketing for this summers theatre production in Victoria Park; $35,000 for Maggie’s Place and $500 for the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26 to assist with restorative work on the Truro Cenotaph.
The first two requests were dealt with through the Economic Development Grant while the Maggie’s Place contribution is to come from the municipality’s non-profit grants program.
The legion contribution is being funded through general operations as an unbudgeted expense.
Regarding its EDG program, council voted to deal with future requests as unbudgeted expenses.
on a case-by-case basis.