Winter Festival of Lights would like an additional $400,000 from the city of Niagara Falls, on top of the $342,000 it normally receives.
Festival executive director Tina Myers made a presentation to Niagara Falls council Tuesday night to make the request.
Council did not approve the additional funding and instead passed a motion for the decision to be made during an OLG budget meeting in May. The money, if approved, would come from the OLG budget.
After Myers’ presentation, Coun. Kim Craitor brought up a letter he’d received from residents of Culp Street, who he said wanted to know why the city should give additional funding to entertainment when there are infrastructure improvements that can’t be funded in certain communities.
Craitor said he wasn’t trying to be critical of WFOL, but wanted to address the concerns of residents.
Coun. Carolyn Ioannoni said she would not support an additional $400,000 towards WFOL, pointing out a long list of committees which have been told to hold at zero increase for years.
“Winter Festival of Lights is great for the city,” said Ioannoni. “But if you go down the list, you have a recreation committee, arts and culture committee, park in the city, mayor’s youth advisory, heritage committee, but more importantly St. John’s Ambulance, Project Share, Women’s Place, YWCA — they were all told to hold at zero increase, and they’re all back to us at zero increase.”
She pointed out the city has spent since New Year’s Eve trying to fund housing and feed the homeless, noting the Coldest Night of the Year event.
“The reason all these have to happen is because (committees) are not funded adequately and they’re continually told to come back to us with zero.”
She said if council is telling agencies that feed families to come back with a zero increase, she has a problem increasing the budget for entertainment.
Ioannoni further noted that council has spent more than half its OLG budget and it’s only February.
“We still have 11 more months to get through the other $12 million,” said Ioannoni.
Morocco, who made the motion to move the decision to budget, said at the end of the day, council can’t just grant the funding to WOFL when it has instructed staff to come back at zero.
“It’s only fair,” said Morocco.
“I can’t do that to one group, when I’ve got 10 groups and another list of organizations that we’ve actually just said ‘it’s zero, don’t come back to us asking for any more money.”
“I know it’s horrible, because I truly want to support them 100 per cent if I know where that money comes from. But at the same time, I don’t know if we want to like, stir up the pot and ask all of these organizations to come back with more. Because at the end of the day, where is the money coming from?” Morocco said.
Ioannoni said it’s not about questioning the value of the Winter Festival of Lights, but rather about the fact places like Project Share can’t feed all the people that come in.
“If they’re up 1,500 people this year and their budget is not increased, it’s hard pressed to say we’ll give (WFOL) an extra $400,000 but we’re going to hold Project Share — that feeds families — at zero.”
Myers noted the Festival has received an additional $300,000 from the OLG budget since 2014. The extra $100,000 in 2018 would be for the addition of an international fireworks competition to the festival.