City council wants a list of all external agencies which receive grants from the city, and the amounts of grant money they receive, in time for its March 23 meeting.
The move stems from a resolution penned by Ward 5 Councillor Frank Fata and seconded by Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Shoemaker, in an attempt to keep taxes as low as possible in this year’s budget.
“We’ve spent money we haven’t had to spend…we used up surplus money last year, we’ve had challenges with OMPF (Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund),” Fata said at Monday’s meeting.
“We’ve got to put our heads together.”
“I won’t vote for a 4.6 percent tax increase, I will not even vote for a 2.6 percent increase,” Fata said, and called on all council members to be fiscally responsible.
“We’re up against the wall as far as I’m concerned…we’ve got to look if non-union city staff will take no pay increase.”
Ward 4 Councillor Rick Niro said the list of external agencies which receive money from taxpayers is already included in council’s budget binders.
Fata replied that he understood that, but wants to have the discussion regarding those groups and their funding “sooner rather than later.”
“I want it to be more than a discussion,” Fata said, clearly desiring to trim spending wherever possible, while at the same time praising the work done by external agencies.
Ward 1 Councillor Steve Butland said Fata should come forward and provide a list of specific groups and specific, suggested reductions in funding, calling Monday’s discussion “too open-ended and extraneous.”
Mayor Christian Provenzano disagreed with Butland, and, along with most members of council, voted in favour of the resolution.
The resolution said the 2015 budget “will be a very challenging one,” and, because many homeowners are on low or fixed incomes, council must find ways to bring down the 4.6 percent tax increase (in the draft budget presented January 26), and every group that receives funding from city taxpayers must tighten their belts and show fiscal responsibility.
During last fall’s municipal election campaign, Shoemaker, running in Ward 3 for the first time, called for a review of the annual funding received by the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC) and Destiny Sault Ste. Marie.
The two groups receive $300,000 in city funding annually.
The 4.6 percent tax increase in the draft budget is preliminary, before the District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB) levy and Algoma Public Health levy are received, as well as surplus information and other factors are taken into consideration.
That was something Ward 2 Councillor Susan Myers emphasized.
“I’m very uneasy with this 4.6 percent,” saying it is only a preliminary figure.
Myers also said external agencies, using the public library and the Art Gallery of Algoma as examples, should be given notice their funding may be under review and should be given a chance to present their funding needs to council before anything is trimmed.