Budget deliberations continue for Niagara-on-the-Lake councillors, who heard Tuesday morning that some of the town’s community partners need more money.
Representatives from six different community groups that work closely with the town asked council to make room in the 2024 budget to support them.
Most were asking more for 2024 than they did for 2023.
NIAGARA DISTRICT AIRPORT
Dan Pilon, the president of Niagara District Airport, is asking the town for $96,774 this year, up from $64,726, which he sought in the 2023 budget talks in February.
It is a far cry from what he’s asked of the airport’s other municipal partners, Niagara Falls ($478,669) and St. Catharines ($693,557).
Pilon said $39,580 of the requested $96,774 was for the airport’s daily operations and $57,194 for capital projects.
While he said there has been a small increase to the airport’s operational costs, it’s capital costs are a different story.
If the request is granted, the town will be forking out $30,884 more than the $26,310 it contributed to the airport’s capital expenses for 2023.
“Airports are, by their very nature, a capital-intensive business,” Pilon said.
The airport needs to start replacing some of its aging items, including a $280,000 snow plow that he said is no longer safe.
Coun. Gary Burroughs wondered if the airport was looking to acquire a used snow plow from another town or airport.
Pilon said the airport is over-spending in the operations department by relying on used equipment.
“We’ve carried more assets than we’ve needed because we knew pretty much at any given time at least one of them would not be operational,” he said.
“We’re charting a different path here,” Pilon added.
and CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Minerva Ward, the president of the NOTL Chamber of Commerce spoke twice – on behalf of the chamber and Tourism NOTL.
The Chamber of Commerce, which promotes and supports town businesses in exchange for membership fees, and Tourism Niagara-on-the-Lake, which markets the town to visitors, are now two distinct legal identities, Ward said.
As the captains of both ships, Ward was asking the town to budget $131,100 for Tourism NOTL and $21,000 for the chamber in the budget.
She had asked for $19,000 for the chamber in 2023.
The $2,000 difference will be used to help pay for the annual Candlelight Stroll, organized by the chamber.
“This year, the Candlelight Stroll is even more expensive to put on,” she said, noting that this year the chamber has to pay for security to block off the roads. In previous years that was handled by the region.
Ward’s ask for Tourism NOTL is up from $123,507 in 2023, a difference of almost $7,500.
The difference comes from increased wages for Ward’s staff and better training for Tourism Niagara-on-the-Lake’s volunteer ambassadors, who provide information to tourists.
NOTL PUBLIC LIBRARY
The town may also be budgeting a bit more for the library in 2024.
And its leaders warn that the library might be coming back with a bigger request for the 2025 budget.
Board chair Daryl Novak said the library, much like the town, is planning for the “proposed expansion of population in our communities.”
Coun. Wendy Cheropita commented that, “With the immense development that will go on in Glendale over the next 10 to 15 years, that will definitely be top of mind.”
But Novak said NOTL might not need to build another library to meet the demand.
One option is to share library facilities with Niagara College in Glendale.
Though the two would have distinct collections and it would solve the need to construct an additional building for the town’s library services.
For 2024, Novak and library CEO Cathy Simpson asked the town to budget $886,461 for the library, almost $64,000 more than the $822,746 the town granted in 2023.
The change represents almost an eight per cent increase.
Much of this money would be used to cover the cost of rising wages for staff, which Simpson said is the library’s biggest cost.
Its labour expenses are up about 10 per cent from 2023.
According to Novak’s presentation, the library will be spending $756,594 on staff, about $68,000 more than the $687,923 it spent in 2023.
“We feel it’s really critical to be able to add 12 staff hours to extend our off-site programs and services,” said Novak.
“Community use of the library is rebounding in 2023 after the pandemic,” Simpson added.
While Niagara College continues to grow, its budget request from the town remains the same.
Gord Arbeau, the college’s vice-president of advancement, said the school is looking for a $20,000 grant to support its growth.
“We have record enrolment on both campuses,” said Arbeau.
The $20,000 will go toward the college’s teaching greenhouse, which he said is being renovated.
New student housing is also on the college’s horizon, he said.
“We’ve committed by the end of 2024, to break ground on expanded student housing on both campuses.”
The college would be adding up to 100 beds in Niagara-on-the-Lake to support student housing, he said.
The school plans to expand its student centre in NOTL in the next seven years, he said.
The town has invested $380,000 in the college since 1995.
Sarah Kaufman, the managing director of the NOTL Museum, is seeking a six per cent increase to help cover the museum’s maintenance costs.
Kaufman asked for $297,934, up from almost $281,000 in 2023.
While funding for the museum in 2023 was only three per cent higher than it was in 2022, Kaufman said the museum had access to COVID relief funds at the time.
This is no longer the case.
Kaufman told council the museum is the most poorly funded museum in the region, despite the town having some of the richest history.
“I’m the one who’s fixing everything,” she told council.
She hopes to use the extra money for a part-time maintenance person.
Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa suggested the town could share its maintenance staff with the museum to help keep costs down.
Other costs attributed to the proposed $297,934 grant include office supplies, museum marketing, collection management and museum activities.