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Mar. 30, 2020 | Monday
Editorials and Opinions
Letter to the editor: Time to rethink approach to annual grants
File photo.


Dear Editor,

It is unfortunate that NOTL Council did not set a target that kept planned increases to our 2019 municipal taxes at or below the cost of living index.

That, plus setting realistic priorities for ongoing and future spending, should have been at the heart of its budget deliberations this year.

I recognize that finalizing a budget and determining spending priorities is challenging work. However, it makes no sense to me that Council has opted to close the NOTL Community Centre on statutory holidays in 2019, including Family Day, while providing funding to Niagara College, the Niagara District Airport, and the NOTL Chamber of Commerce, among other organizations.

Niagara College, according to media reports, had a $13-million surplus in 2017-18 and receives substantial provincial funding. Surely it did not need a $20,000 grant from NOTL.

The Chamber exists to represent and benefit its members, which fund the organization through their membership dues. While it may make sense for NOTL to contract with the Chamber to list and sell tickets for local events, there is an argument to be made that providing annual funding to the Chamber to promote tourism does not. Many residents believe that NOTL attracts more than enough tourists already, which has resulted in traffic and pedestrian congestion, parking and noise issues, and local events being inundated with out-of-towners, making NOTL a less attractive place to live and work. Tourists may be good for the Chamber’s members, but they’re not necessarily good for town.

As for the airport. I can see Council providing one-time financial support for capital projects, but providing annual funding towards the airport’s operating costs does not make sense over the long term unless there is a realistic expectation – backed by a strong business plan – that the airport can become a viable enterprise that will generate economic or other benefits to local residents and businesses.

The bottom line is that grants from Council to third parties should not be annual line items in the municipal budget. They should only be considered in years when town can provide them without reducing the level of services it provides to residents, or raising property or business taxes, and only in exceptional circumstances.