/Massive cuts for cultural centre in MHbudget

Massive cuts for cultural centre in MHbudget

By Chad Ingram

The Minden Hills Cultural Centre willget hit with a big funding cut in 2016 and likely one next year as well.

During a Jan. 28 meeting Minden Hillscouncil ordered community services director Mark Coleman to cut$50000 from the cultural centre's $340000 draft budget and ReeveBrent Devolin said he wants to see an additional $50000 cut from thecentre's budget in 2017.

“A year ago the most striking numberI saw on the budget was the cultural centre cost” Devolin saidadding that he'd hoped the layoff of one of the centre's two curatorsearly last year would've made a difference. “Part of my expectationwas that we would see savings.”

The 2015 cultural centre budget wasapproximately $335000.

The centre – which includes the AgnesJamieson Gallery Minden Hills Museum and Nature's Place interpretivecentre – now has one curator for the entire facility and alsoemploys support staff.

Devolin noted the cost for the centre had grown from $147000 in 2005 to $340000 a decade later.

While Coleman said attendance forevents at the cultural centre has been good overall walk-in trafficas well as volunteerism and associated fundraising has flatlined inrecent years.

“This has gone on long enough”Devolin said. “I can't justify this to the ratepayers anymore.”

The cultural centre represents $340000of the $1.2-million community services draft budget which alsoentails parks and recreation including the operation of the S.G.Nesbitt Memorial Arena.

Council is aiming to keep the propertytax increase for Minden Hills residents under 10 per cent in 2016.

“We have challenging times in themunicipality” Devolin said.

Without reductions to the draft budgetas well as dipping into reserves it would represent a 15 per centincrease over last year's tax levy.

The township will use about $440000 ofsome $5 million in reserves to help mitigate the impact to taxpayers.

The second year of thefive-year-phase-in of the provincially mandated new OPP billingformula will see police costs for Minden Hills rise by $391000 in2016. That's the equivalent of a 6.23 increase in the overall taxlevy which will be passed directly to residents.

While most department heads includingColeman delivered increases of zero or better there willbe an increase in the roads department of more than $600000 mostlydue to construction and equipment costs. The roads budget totals approximately $3.2 million.

There will also be an increase in thefire department of $64000 for a digital radio upgrade and emergencyplan update bringing its total to just more than $500000.

Deputy-reeve Cheryl Murdoch praised thecultural centre for its uniqueness but said the facility has aproblem attracting visitors which is causing a problem for thetownship.

“That is a very unique corner inprobably all of Ontario” Murdoch said. “Where the whole thingfalls apart we have hardly any people coming there. We need tosomehow get the word out there come and have a look at it. I wouldnever want to see it shut down. Get it under control for costs? Yes.”

Devolin admitted that he'd thoughtabout all the other places the township could use $340000.

“I thought about that for half asecond and put it away” he said.

In a bid to increase revenues at thecultural centre council voted Thursday to return to admission bydonation at the centre. A system of admission fees for eachparticular attraction or an overall rate for the entire centre thathas been in place the past few years has not proven effective inincreasing revenues.

Council will have a second round ofbudget discussions in coming weeks.