About the Blog:

Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Guelph Arts gearing up for Budget Fight

This came across my desk today from the Guelph Arts Council. News about possible cuts to the arts sector git buried beneath the big ticket items I reported on last week, but there's some pretty substantial cuts earmarked for the arts in Guelph should city council decide to enact them. Here's the letter from GAC:

Well, folks, this missive feels a bit like déjà vu!! Back in 2005 – after the community rallied and successfully defeated a City budget proposal to cut all community / voluntary sector grants – we did say that “it could happen again”!! And, if you’ve been reading the newspapers, you’ll know that such cuts are indeed on the table for the 2010 City budget. I heard it all during last night’s four-hour staff budget presentation / Council question period.

It’s no secret that the City has recently been dealing with some very significant financial challenges. For 2010, these look to be even greater! In fact, even the base budget increase (after consideration of revenues losses and increases as a result of contractual obligations) looks to be $8.1 million which would translate into a 9.2 % tax hike.

Recognizing that such an increase would be completely unacceptable to Guelph citizens in these tough economic times, City staff have prepared two scenarios for City Council to consider:

List A - cuts to bring the increase down to 4.48 %
List B – cuts to bring the increase down about 2.5 %

The good news is that staff is recommending List A; the bad news is that List B, although not recommended, does include elimination of all community / voluntary support.

More specifically, List B includes:

Guelph Arts Council and United Way $ 57 500
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre 168 700

Community Arts & Culture Grants 70 000

Community Health & Social Service Grants 53 600

Community Events 91 000

Civic Celebrations and Special Projects 100 000

Neighbourhood Support Coalition Grant 150 000

Total $690 800

At the Council presentation last night (November 30), Council members made it pretty clear that they had no appetite for most of the cuts identified on List B. But, at the same time, some councillors also had problems with some of the items on List A (e.g. hike in transit fares). They further indicated that they were hearing from members of the public who want virtually no tax increase!

So, where are we with the arts / voluntary sector cuts? We are not at the top of the list but we are on the list – in other word, we are threatened, and we do need to make our case.

We don’t have a lot of time to do so. Council will hear delegations from the community ONLY next Tuesday, December 8, starting at 6 p.m. Then, they will debate the budget and make a decision on Tuesday, December 15 (and Wednesday, December 16, if more time is needed).

Remembering back to the February 2005 Council meeting (which had so many delegations that by 11 p.m. one could see that Council members were tuning out), we are recommending a fairly targeted approach to avoid too much repetition at the December 8 meeting.

Guelph Arts Council has registered as a delegation for that meeting, and will speak specifically to its own city allocation (without which, our organization’s future would be in serious jeopardy) PLUS the community arts grants (which we have just finished reviewing and recommending on) PLUS some community events such as Doors Open (which could not proceed without City funding), Hillside Inside, Multicultural Festival. We know that there will also be presentations from others (Neighbour Support Coalition, Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Seniors Centre) and expect possibly others from the voluntary sector generally and possibly Civic Celebrations.

But there is a role for each and every one of you. You can communicate with Mayor / councillors:
- as an individual or as a representative of a specific group;

- specifically to your Ward councillor and/or all councillors;

- by phone, email, or letter delivered / mailed to City Hall;
- any time between now and December 15, although likely the sooner the better.

Click here to get contact information for councillors -
You could also consider sending a letter to the editor of either the Tribune or the Mercury.

Experience would show that we should be as positive as possible in any communications, not being overly critical or confrontational, and acknowledging the challenges faced by Council this year and the efforts they are making to responsibly deal with their financial shortfalls. At the same time, we need to point out how the not-for-profit voluntary sector, especially in the arts, has been similarly affected by cuts in support form other levels of government (no infrastructure $$ for us!) as well as a decline in fundraised dollars and, in many cases, a decrease in ticket sales / entry fees. For organizations already operating close to the line, for many of us it has meant going into a deficit position.

We would also be grateful if those of you who are members of Guelph Arts Council and/or work closely with us or appreciate the role we play as “the voice of the arts” in this community could put in a good word for maintaining our funding intact.

In return, as we did in 2005, Guelph Arts Council is prepared to take on the role of co-ordinating this “campaign” and keeping you posted on anything that develops between now and December 15. To that end, we would ask that each of you send us a copy of any correspondence to/from councillors.

Together, we can win this battle yet again – and live to fight another day!!

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