Pet agencies benefit at budget time, charge several councillors

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

There are some local boards and agencies that have become the favourites of Hamilton politicians when it comes to getting taxpayers' money, say a few councillors.

Politicians last week agreed to provide the Art Gallery of Hamilton with $740,000 in 2006. They also agreed to recommend to the Hamilton Future Fund board that it give the facility an additional $260,000 to meet the AGH's $1-million funding request. The total package is a whopping 5.7 per cent budget increase from last year - at a time when councillors set a 3 per cent budget ceiling on all boards and agencies' funding requests.

"For the life of me, why do we treat this (agency) as a one-off?" said Hamilton councillor Chad Collins. "We allow no other operational board or city department to do it."

Collins said later that few Hamilton organizations get such beneficial treatment from council. How does it look, he says, if the AGH exceeds council's request, while city staff have to accept a ceiling of 3 per cent increases in their department budgets?

Other than the Hamilton Police Service's $107 million budget - a 4.6 per cent increase from last year - recently approved by council, politicians have browbeaten other agencies to present funding requests that are within the 3 per cent increase. They have demanded and received cuts to the Halton and Hamilton Conservation Authorities and they told the Hamilton Library Board to cuts budget to 3 per cent. The Library board did slice an additional $10,000 from its request and presented a 3.7 per cent funding increase to councillors.

Politicians have also been unrelenting to the Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc. (HECFI) board, telling it to chop its proposed 5 per cent increase to 3 per cent. HECFI already receives an estimated $1.5-million subsidy from the city.

In an email to council, Rick DiFilippo, HECFI's director of Business Services warned politicians if they force HECFI to make the cuts, it will mean the board will be forced to reduce the non-profit rate for organizations that use their facilities. Councillors remained unmoved by HECFI's threat, and urged the board to reconsider its budget.

Overall, boards' and agencies' budget for 2006 is about 3.9 per cent higher than in 2005, with the city providing over $39.2 million in 2006. Yet during a presentation to the budget committee last week, councillors agreed with Louise Dompierre, director of the AGH when she argued that for every dollar spent on the art gallery, the facility injects four dollars into the Hamilton economy.

"(The gallery) generates wealth in Hamilton," said Hamilton councillor Brian McHattie. "It's an incredible investment."

McHattie recognized that the city was treating some agencies more equally than others, but that is a reality councillors have to accept. "We need to look at what is going on," he added. "We (accepted higher budgets) with the police, and the library for good reason."

Hamilton councillor Bob Bratina was equally passionate about enhancing the Art Gallery, and boosting Hamilton's artistic community.

"I don't know how you can (encourage investment in Hamilton) if you are a backwater," he said. "We have the best gallery in North America. We are nickel and diming it to death."

But Flamborough councillor Margaret McCarthy joined Collins in denouncing council's preferential treatment of the gallery at the expense of the other community agencies.

"Every board and agency has argued for need," she said. "I can't see how you can play favourites."

Dundas councillor Art Samson said councillors should be more sensitive to residents' needs as they continue to boost the AGH's funding. He pointed out the people that packed council's gallery recently to argue for more city action and money to fight poverty would find it difficult to accept council giving more money to the AGH.

"The public loves (the gallery)," said Samson. "But is is loved by the people here last week in the lower ends of poverty? All I see is the taxes going up, up, up."

Hamilton councillor Tom Jackson, usually a staunch supporter of the gallery, reluctantly agreed to provide the facility with more money this year. But he warned gallery officials they will feel his wrath if they come back to council asking for even more funding next year.

"We've got a taxpayer base that is concerned," he said. "We had a 3 per cent target. Short of a pandemic, I don't want to hear from anyone next year coming to us with excuses (on why they couldn't meet their budget targets)."

Pet agencies benefit at budget time, charge several councillors

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

There are some local boards and agencies that have become the favourites of Hamilton politicians when it comes to getting taxpayers' money, say a few councillors.

Politicians last week agreed to provide the Art Gallery of Hamilton with $740,000 in 2006. They also agreed to recommend to the Hamilton Future Fund board that it give the facility an additional $260,000 to meet the AGH's $1-million funding request. The total package is a whopping 5.7 per cent budget increase from last year - at a time when councillors set a 3 per cent budget ceiling on all boards and agencies' funding requests.

"For the life of me, why do we treat this (agency) as a one-off?" said Hamilton councillor Chad Collins. "We allow no other operational board or city department to do it."

Collins said later that few Hamilton organizations get such beneficial treatment from council. How does it look, he says, if the AGH exceeds council's request, while city staff have to accept a ceiling of 3 per cent increases in their department budgets?

Other than the Hamilton Police Service's $107 million budget - a 4.6 per cent increase from last year - recently approved by council, politicians have browbeaten other agencies to present funding requests that are within the 3 per cent increase. They have demanded and received cuts to the Halton and Hamilton Conservation Authorities and they told the Hamilton Library Board to cuts budget to 3 per cent. The Library board did slice an additional $10,000 from its request and presented a 3.7 per cent funding increase to councillors.

Politicians have also been unrelenting to the Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc. (HECFI) board, telling it to chop its proposed 5 per cent increase to 3 per cent. HECFI already receives an estimated $1.5-million subsidy from the city.

In an email to council, Rick DiFilippo, HECFI's director of Business Services warned politicians if they force HECFI to make the cuts, it will mean the board will be forced to reduce the non-profit rate for organizations that use their facilities. Councillors remained unmoved by HECFI's threat, and urged the board to reconsider its budget.

Overall, boards' and agencies' budget for 2006 is about 3.9 per cent higher than in 2005, with the city providing over $39.2 million in 2006. Yet during a presentation to the budget committee last week, councillors agreed with Louise Dompierre, director of the AGH when she argued that for every dollar spent on the art gallery, the facility injects four dollars into the Hamilton economy.

"(The gallery) generates wealth in Hamilton," said Hamilton councillor Brian McHattie. "It's an incredible investment."

McHattie recognized that the city was treating some agencies more equally than others, but that is a reality councillors have to accept. "We need to look at what is going on," he added. "We (accepted higher budgets) with the police, and the library for good reason."

Hamilton councillor Bob Bratina was equally passionate about enhancing the Art Gallery, and boosting Hamilton's artistic community.

"I don't know how you can (encourage investment in Hamilton) if you are a backwater," he said. "We have the best gallery in North America. We are nickel and diming it to death."

But Flamborough councillor Margaret McCarthy joined Collins in denouncing council's preferential treatment of the gallery at the expense of the other community agencies.

"Every board and agency has argued for need," she said. "I can't see how you can play favourites."

Dundas councillor Art Samson said councillors should be more sensitive to residents' needs as they continue to boost the AGH's funding. He pointed out the people that packed council's gallery recently to argue for more city action and money to fight poverty would find it difficult to accept council giving more money to the AGH.

"The public loves (the gallery)," said Samson. "But is is loved by the people here last week in the lower ends of poverty? All I see is the taxes going up, up, up."

Hamilton councillor Tom Jackson, usually a staunch supporter of the gallery, reluctantly agreed to provide the facility with more money this year. But he warned gallery officials they will feel his wrath if they come back to council asking for even more funding next year.

"We've got a taxpayer base that is concerned," he said. "We had a 3 per cent target. Short of a pandemic, I don't want to hear from anyone next year coming to us with excuses (on why they couldn't meet their budget targets)."

Pet agencies benefit at budget time, charge several councillors

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

There are some local boards and agencies that have become the favourites of Hamilton politicians when it comes to getting taxpayers' money, say a few councillors.

Politicians last week agreed to provide the Art Gallery of Hamilton with $740,000 in 2006. They also agreed to recommend to the Hamilton Future Fund board that it give the facility an additional $260,000 to meet the AGH's $1-million funding request. The total package is a whopping 5.7 per cent budget increase from last year - at a time when councillors set a 3 per cent budget ceiling on all boards and agencies' funding requests.

"For the life of me, why do we treat this (agency) as a one-off?" said Hamilton councillor Chad Collins. "We allow no other operational board or city department to do it."

Collins said later that few Hamilton organizations get such beneficial treatment from council. How does it look, he says, if the AGH exceeds council's request, while city staff have to accept a ceiling of 3 per cent increases in their department budgets?

Other than the Hamilton Police Service's $107 million budget - a 4.6 per cent increase from last year - recently approved by council, politicians have browbeaten other agencies to present funding requests that are within the 3 per cent increase. They have demanded and received cuts to the Halton and Hamilton Conservation Authorities and they told the Hamilton Library Board to cuts budget to 3 per cent. The Library board did slice an additional $10,000 from its request and presented a 3.7 per cent funding increase to councillors.

Politicians have also been unrelenting to the Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc. (HECFI) board, telling it to chop its proposed 5 per cent increase to 3 per cent. HECFI already receives an estimated $1.5-million subsidy from the city.

In an email to council, Rick DiFilippo, HECFI's director of Business Services warned politicians if they force HECFI to make the cuts, it will mean the board will be forced to reduce the non-profit rate for organizations that use their facilities. Councillors remained unmoved by HECFI's threat, and urged the board to reconsider its budget.

Overall, boards' and agencies' budget for 2006 is about 3.9 per cent higher than in 2005, with the city providing over $39.2 million in 2006. Yet during a presentation to the budget committee last week, councillors agreed with Louise Dompierre, director of the AGH when she argued that for every dollar spent on the art gallery, the facility injects four dollars into the Hamilton economy.

"(The gallery) generates wealth in Hamilton," said Hamilton councillor Brian McHattie. "It's an incredible investment."

McHattie recognized that the city was treating some agencies more equally than others, but that is a reality councillors have to accept. "We need to look at what is going on," he added. "We (accepted higher budgets) with the police, and the library for good reason."

Hamilton councillor Bob Bratina was equally passionate about enhancing the Art Gallery, and boosting Hamilton's artistic community.

"I don't know how you can (encourage investment in Hamilton) if you are a backwater," he said. "We have the best gallery in North America. We are nickel and diming it to death."

But Flamborough councillor Margaret McCarthy joined Collins in denouncing council's preferential treatment of the gallery at the expense of the other community agencies.

"Every board and agency has argued for need," she said. "I can't see how you can play favourites."

Dundas councillor Art Samson said councillors should be more sensitive to residents' needs as they continue to boost the AGH's funding. He pointed out the people that packed council's gallery recently to argue for more city action and money to fight poverty would find it difficult to accept council giving more money to the AGH.

"The public loves (the gallery)," said Samson. "But is is loved by the people here last week in the lower ends of poverty? All I see is the taxes going up, up, up."

Hamilton councillor Tom Jackson, usually a staunch supporter of the gallery, reluctantly agreed to provide the facility with more money this year. But he warned gallery officials they will feel his wrath if they come back to council asking for even more funding next year.

"We've got a taxpayer base that is concerned," he said. "We had a 3 per cent target. Short of a pandemic, I don't want to hear from anyone next year coming to us with excuses (on why they couldn't meet their budget targets)."