Continued roll out of visitor services, support for Small Business Centre among highlights for 2018
The County’s community and economic development commission will be asking council for a $152,850 budget for 2018 after approving numbers presented by staff last week.
On Tuesday, community development director Neil Carbone presented a budget that results in a 5.4-per-cent reduction from this year’s allocation of $168,500. He said for two years now the commission has budgeted below its requirements from the previous year.
“I think that’s wise, we’ve only budgeted for what we need,” he said. “Last year, we knew there were some changes needed for visitor services. A lot of this budget is project initiative based and it changes as you work on things.”
On the expenditures side of the ledger, the commission will recommend reducing its office supplies budget from $1,000 to zero as most costs were borne by the community development department. Line items for professional development and travel and conferences totally $5,000 last year were reduced to $2,000 this year as it was discovered commissioners weren’t using the funds.
Membership and publications budgets will also decrease from $16,5000 to $3,000 as last year’s amount included a potential expenditure for the Bay of Quinte regional marketing board that wasn’t needed. Some $3,000 will allow for participation in Ontario East projects that may arise.
The commission will be increasing its support for the Small Business Centre from $15,000 to $20,000. Carbone said that in meeting with neighbouring municipalities, it was determined the county was getting excellent value for its investment as Sandy Abbott was spending three or four days working on programs within Prince Edward County. The metrics show the SBC helped with job creation and Carbone was concerned about losing some of that value.
“We’ve been getting a good deal, in many ways it’s not equitable with the service our other partners are getting. I know that service will be changing somewhat and I’ve included an increase because I don’t want to see Sandy’s service in the community changing significantly. We’re still negotiating.’
The largest section of expenditures is in projects, where the commission is proposing $132,000 in spending. The bulk of that money is related to strategic plan implementation.
The continued roll out of visitor services represents $76,000 of the budget. Off the top, $50,000 is transferred to the community development department for a visitor’s services staff member. Carbone said that money pays 70-80 per cent of wages and benefits for that position.
The remaining money includes a $5,000 buffer for work on the tourism development web site, $4,400 to improve flags and signage at tourism Hot Spots after visitors suggested the initial offering was lacking, $4,600 to pilot a touchscreen kiosk at one of those locations, $2,000 to improve shelving and infrastructure at Hot Spots with a focus on Bloomfield Town Hall, $1,800 for new maps with steel pedestals, and $3,700 for the continued provision of hospitality training through the Prince Edward Learning Centre. The delivery of print materials is budgeted as a revenue neutral activity.
Also involved under the strategic plan are $1,000 for the continuation of the business forum, $7,500 for familiarization tours which lead to earned media, $10,000 for general marketing opportunities (discretionary projects that come before the commission, such as last year’s Roots holiday ad), $15,000 for a lure piece, and $2,500 and for a heritage business award.
Councillor Dianne O’Brien said she’d like to see the general marketing allocation cut in half and the lure piece budget come in around $10,000.
Carbone said the general marketing fund allows money for unforeseen opportunities.
“The Roots campaign was a $5,000 expense. I’m glad we had that amount,” he said. “There were other opportunities we said no to because we didn’t have the funding. You never know what opportunities you’ll be given. I’ve carried over the same amount from last year. There could be less and there could be more.”
He added that staff would come back to the commission such budgetary requests that aren’t well defined for a specific purpose, like familiarization tours.
O’Brien moved to change the budget request.
“I’d like to amend the $10,000 to $5,000. We still have to collect it from the taxpayer. We have to pay that and it’s sitting there. The more we take from the taxpayer, the higher the taxes and there’s already a high burden,” she said. “If we as a commission need more, we can always go back and there’s a reserve fund council has that can provide it.”
Ultimately, she did not fund support.
Further projects included were a Farmland Forum sponsorship for $5,000, a Great Waterway 50/50 partnership with the County’s contribution being $10,000, and $5,000 for youth retention and entrepreneurship activities. Carbone said the latter isn’t earmarked for the Recreation Outreach Centre as it was in 2016 and it will be up to the commission to determine how to spend it.
While the commission ultimately approved sending the request forward to council, commissioner Christine Winiarz Searle asked if Carbone would include projections of actual spending levels in future budget documents so that commissioners could gauge how real expenditures compared to budget numbers when making decisions.