By J.W. Schnarr
Ongoing issues over the Municipal District of Taber’s recreation grant funding for this year has left Vauxhall council once more scratching their heads.
During their regular meeting on Feb. 17, council decided they would take an opportunity to meet with M.D. council in a joint meeting in order to try and come up with a solution for the grant issues, caused in part by an accounting error on the part of the Jets Stadium Society which left the group underfunded.
“The M.D. was taking some of the money off the cheque to back pay the Jets Stadium Society,” said Mayor Margaret Plumtree.
“They were supposed to get $10,000, and they were only going to get $5,000 because of the way their papers looked,” said Coun. Christie Sorensen.
As a result, M.D. council reduced this year’s recreation funding allotment to the Town of Vauxhall in order to fix the issue, resulting in a lower amount of recreation funds to be available for the town this year to spend on other facilities and organizations.
“We’re actually down $8,500 from last year,” said Plumtree. She expressed frustration at being unable to get a straight answer from the M.D.
“I cannot get the M.D. to commit to me how much they want spent,” she said.
Sorensen said it is not the role of the M.D. to dictate how each penny of their recreation grant money is spent. The issue has also caused frustration for Vauxhall council as they try to predict the spending wishes of M.D. council.
“They tell you right in there they want it for capital and operating expenditures,” said Sorensen. She said the specifics of how the money is spent, however, is left up to Vauxhall council.
“I would figure the M.D. would send a letter stating they want it (spent a certain way),” said Sorensen. “But they don’t, but they want it done right.”
“But tell me what ‘right’, is because this is very frustrating,” said Plumtree. “I don’t know what ‘right’ is for them. And if they are going to be upset because we don’t spend the money the way they want, and they are going to take (grant money) out, well, what is it then?”
Sorensen said as she understood it, the society had always received a specific amount of grant funding from the M.D. through their Vauxhall recreation grant. When that amount changed, the M.D. took it upon themselves to rectify it.
“We want to make the M.D. happy with how their money is spent,” said Deputy Mayor Richard Phillips. “In that case, it seems as though we should be allocating their money to things that will be used by M.D. residents the most. That means things like the arena, and the hall, and curling. The least would be the parks. I see M.D. residents coming into town to use the arena. I don’t see them coming in to town to use the playground in town.”
The issue has caused delays in decisions on how the recreation grant will be spent, as administration has been tied up waiting to see exactly how much money is available and where those funds need to be allocated.
Chief Administrative Officer Cris Burns said ultimately, the same amount of funding is available for local groups and facilities, whether the money comes from the M.D. or from Vauxhall. He noted the costs were added up, and money was allocated for those costs, but then became upset with the percentages from different sources.
“People got upset over the numbering, but it’s still going to cost (the same amount),” he said. “As for where people want to see their money spent, it makes them happy.”
“Really, in the end, all this money comes in, and all these bills get paid,” agreed Plumtree. “It’s just that, on paper, where we’re saying we’re spending the M.D. money.”
Following discussion, council decided to make information for the exact costs of the different components funded by the recreation grant available to the M.D. in order for M.D. council to better understand how that money is being used.
“From there, if they want to change it up, fine,” said Plumtree. “Let’s sit down and talk.”
Vauxhall council and M.D. council have an upcoming joint council meeting in March in order to further discuss this issue as well as other matters. According to information supplied by administration, Jets Stadium Society has received $142,553.49 since 2008.