City of Fernie city hall. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Fernie budget meeting tonight

City council will be discussing community feedback to the proposed budget tonight

City of Fernie Mayor and Council will be mulling over community feedback to the budget proposal revealed two weeks ago, with a special meeting of council tonight (Thursday April 8).

Within the meeting documents, staff have reported that of 60 feedback forms and emails received, just over half (31) expressed concern about cuts in partner funding, while seven indicated support for a higher tax increase.

At a council meeting on March 23, Fernie’s elected officials supported tackling a $546,755 budget deficit by raising taxes by 4 percent, giving operating partners a 20 percent operating grant cut and reducing payments into reserves.

The proposed cuts to operating partners drew the most attention through community consultation.

As proposed, the Seniors Drop-In Centre, Fernie Museum and Fernie Arts Council would see their operating grants with the city reduced by 20 percent. The Seniors Drop-In Centre would receive only $24,000, instead of the previous amount of $30,000.

In a letter to the city, Jim Booth and Nici Blackwell, who are respectively the president and treasurer of the Senior Citizens Club of Fernie and District (which operates the Seniors Drop-In Centre) said that they felt the 20 percent cut to the centre was “a deep cut that will seriously impact our ability to continue the level of programming that was offered prior to the pandemic.”

Booth and Blackwell said that the decision to cut funds from their own, and other community groups was done without enough input from those groups.

“These are not arbitrary numbers to the community groups. These numbers equate to a decrease in days that the Centre is open, a decrease in programming, a potential increase in annual membership fees, rental costs, and cafe prices,” they wrote.

The Fernie Chamber of Commerce, which operates the Visitor Information Centre through an operating grant from the city that was locked in via a long-term contract (and therefore received no cuts), came out batting for community groups that were not shielded from cuts, with chamber president Anita Palmer writing that the decision to cut their funding more than three months into an operating year was unfair, and put those groups in a vulnerable position.

“With more information and deliberation, longer term funding cuts to these groups may well be the direction you head in. But there needs to be much more discussion on this to make an informed decision and decent notice given to these groups.”

Palmer and the chamber also said the discussion around community groups might as well be thrown open, if the city did not consider them to be ‘core services.’

“For example, if this council truly believes an art gallery is not a core municipal service – why do you own that building? And what would you do with that building if that group who currently operates it on your behalf was forced to step away due to lack of funding?”

Returning to general feedback from the public, interestingly, while seven supported a greater than 4 percent tax increase, only three were opposed. Other options presented to council had been lower tax rates paired with deeper cuts to community groups, and significantly higher tax rates while leaving community groups (and payments to reserves) relatively untouched.

There were a few suggestions seemingly out of left field, with two respondents recommending the city reduce street lighting, another suggesting the RCMP budget be reduced, and another taking aim at the fire department, suggesting they have their budget reduced.

The special meeting of council to discuss community feedback will take place tonight at 6 p.m., and will be open on Zoom and streamed on the city’s Facebook page.

READ MORE: Preliminary budget: 4 percent tax increase on the cards for Fernie



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Municipal Government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Members of the community garden hosted their first seed swap and fundraiser at the Greenwood Mall in Sparwood on Monday. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Sparwood Community Garden hosts first seed swap

Work on the garden at Engelmann Spruce Drive will begin soon

Crews and volunteers responded to a four-hectare wildfire on the lower half of the Aqam community lands near Cranbrook on Friday afternoon. Trevor Crawley photo.
Wildfire season gets early start in the East Kootenay

Fire crews, volunteers respond to two local wildfires, while prescribed burns turn weekend skies smoky

A conceptual image of a multi-family housing development envisioned by Abugov Kaspar Architects to go on a lot in Castle Mountain in Fernie. (Image courtesy of City of Fernie)
City defers zoning decision

A zoning change would permit a development with 15 percent rental tenure residences in Castle Mountain

Rob and Jennifer King run Sasquatch Cyclery out of their garage. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)
‘Hop on it now’: Parts crunch hits cycling

New bikes are hard to get and used bikes are selling at a premium this year

Michel-Natal-Sparwood Heritage Society runs a museum that was established to display the heritage of the "no-longer towns" of Michel and Natal, and the Elk Valley Area. Photo Submitted/Monica Beranek, Artifact Curator
Sparwood Museum requests a leg up to stay open full-time

The museum is volunteer-run, but needs a full-time employee to be able to snag much-needed grants

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BREAKING: Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
B.C. health authority seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

Chakalaka Bar and Grill plans to continue serving customers without public health compliance

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kimberley's Steve Tersmette has published Waterfall Hikes In Southern British Columbia, documenting 100 of the areas waterfalls.
Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Carver Ken Sheen had almost finished work on a large cowboy carving commissioned by the City of Williams Lake to replace the original overlooking the Stampede Grounds when fire broke out Friday, April 18 at his property between Williams Lake and Quesnel. (Pine River Carving Facebook photos)
Cow boss statue destined for Williams Lake Stampede Grounds goes up in flames

Carver Ken Sheen lost the statue, all his tools and his shop in the blaze

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)
B.C. moves to protect employee pay for COVID-19 vaccination

Most won’t need to take time off work, labour minister says

Most Read