Arts and culture bodies present 2021 budget requests to Jasper Municipal Council

·4 min read

A request from the Jasper Artists Guild (JAG) was the first of three presentations council heard at their committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 10.

JAG is asking for $10,075.60. That's $3,952 in funding support and a rent decrease of $6,124.

In 2020, JAG received no funding but rent was waived until September. They had asked for $15,000.

"A rent decrease will help us get back on track," said Christina Martin, president of the JAG board of directors. "Rent is our biggest cost. A year's reprieve would be amazing."

The monetary support is slated for office and gallery equipment and marketing and promotional materials.

Councillor Jenna McGrath said JAG is an important part of the community and Coun. Rico Damota said he's impressed with the different ways JAG is creating sources of revenue.

In addition to grants and donations, JAG gets funding through the gallery and special event art sales. Martin told council the exhibition at the Legion on Nov. 4 and 5, "was really successful".

When Mayor Richard Ireland asked Martin for financial statements, she offered to provide a few year's records. JAG will forward its new business plan to the municipality when it is completed.

The Jasper Yellowhead Historical Society requested $65,000 for 2021, citing notable decreases in admissions, front door donations, gift shop sales, archive sales and meeting room rentals.

In 2020, Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives requested the same amount, $65,000, and were allocated $19,600.

Rob Hubick, museum manager said COVID had put programming on hold, including summer mini outings and winter coffee hours.

Fundraising events in 2021 such as the Nordic Fest, Grandfondo and Hops & Scotch, which total close to $10,000 in funding, may not happen and, Hubick said, there are no casino funds to rely in the coming year because it happens only every two or three years.

Greg Key, a museum board member, told council the society hired the Hatlie Group, a cultural services and consulting firm, to help with a sustainability planning project, "to keep the doors open".

Volunteers continue to find ways to raise funds including bottle drives, the duck race and the Festival of Trees.

The $65,000 requested from council would be used for a website upgrading shortfall, costs for hiring Hatlie Group, lot development due diligence, and operational support.

Council was impressed with the efforts of board members and staff to raise money, including getting Travel Alberta funding ($5,000).

Ireland, who sits on the board, said he's happy the board is engaged in the project with the Hatlie group and credited the board for their initiative.

Marianne Garrah, a director with the Jasper Community Habitat for the Arts, said the organization pays $1,701 a month for rent and "as such we ask simply for the in-kind portion of the ask of rent relief."

Habitat also received no funding in 2020 but had rent waived until September. The body had asked for $55,000.

Garrah talked about how Habitat for the Arts has offered much-needed social connection via porch concerts and virtual paint nights.

Ireland urged council to remember how some returns on investment do not have to be financial.

Council will review the requests at upcoming meetings.

Tax concerns

Council reviewed their Nov. 3 decision to direct administration to prepare an operating budget with a municipal tax requisition of $8,429,903.

With a property tax increase coming after a reduction in taxes in 2020 ($7,000,000 tax requisition), and the financial uncertainty due to COVID, McGrath said Jasper residents have contacted her about taxes.

She asked, "Is there a way the municipality could move forward with taxation, but… work with people who cannot pay? Move forward with the 2021 budget, but with compassion and empathy in mind?"

Ireland said tax relief is available to apply for, if necessary and Coun. Scott Wilson noted, "Things are going to be more expensive this time around."

Natasha Malenchak, director of finance and administration, confirmed there will be an increase of 6.4 per cent on top of the 2019 figures and said, "We are looking at what we were open at in 2019."

Administration will work on the budget and bring figures to council at their Nov. 17 meeting.

No financial data has yet been provided for utility costs in 2021.

Interim chief administrative officer John Greathead said with demands on water and sewer systems, there's a difference between commercial property and household property and municipal staff do extra work to make sure sewage lines are clear on commercial property.

He recommended changing to a tiered system for utility rates, where heavy users would be charged a higher base rate, as he thinks they are “the most equitable”.

Utility cost estimates will be presented to council in time for public meetings about the 2021 budget, on Nov. 23 and 25. The meetings will be conducted on Zoom and start at 6 p.m.

Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh