Saanich postpones vote on arts funding

How much will Saanich residents pay?This simple but fundamental question hung unresolved in the air when Saanich council considered and postponed a vote on regional arts funding.

Council unanimously asked for additional information about the revised bylaw that governs Saanich’s contribution to the Arts Commission of the Capital Regional District. The commission is the forum for public input for the delivery of arts programs by the CRD.

Eight member municipalities participate in the service and Saanich is the single largest contributor with over a $1 million dollars as a Group 1 member. They — Saanich, Victoria, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, and View Royal — supply the bulk of funding.

Group 2 members — Highlands, Metchosin, and Sidney) each provide up to 30 per cent of what the calculated funding level would be for their municipality if they were a Group 1 member.

Non-participating municipalities may provide arts funding to the Commission, which then incorporates this contribution into the overall grant funding envelope.

The CRD board last gave three unanimous readings to the revised bylaw. At least two-thirds of the communities must consent to the changes.

Monday’s vote however withholds Saanich’s consent for now as council members raised questions with most focused on the changing funding formula.

Whereas the previous formula calculated the contributions of Group 1 members communities on the basis of population and property values, the new funding formula relies exclusively on property values, which as Coun. Judy Brownoff have risen significantly.

Accordingly, several councillors wanted to know how this development would impact Saanich’s contribution to the service.

“I need to know that this bylaw is not going to increase Saanich’s financial [contribution] to this service without council knowing what it is”

“With this change, what is the impact on Saanich?” asked Coun. Susan Brice. “Are we better off? Are we worse off? Are we the same?”

Mayor Richard Atwell agreed. He said it would be quite useful how much money would be raised under the current formula and how much money would be raised under the new formula.

Coun. Colin Plant, who chairs the CRD’s Arts Commission, said he could not disagree with soliciting additional input, adding that delaying approval would not have any detrimental effect.

However, he also warned against unpacking the bylaw. “This bylaw has been approved by the CRD board,” he said. “It was passed unanimously, just to be clear,” he said. “I don’t have any hesitations about getting more information, but I would just that what we are looking at is for clarification. If you are asking us to go and rewrite the bylaw…that would be a lengthy delay.”

Comments from Coun. Vicki Sanders, however, appeared to muddy the water.

While she acknowledged the unanimous approval, she also described the changes as significant.

“When you actually go through what was taken out of the bylaw and how it was changed, that was really very major,” she said. “That whole part on the appropriation and on the funding formula which we are losing is quite dramatic. When you look at it, it is very unclear. There is no surety that it will be similar to what we are doing now. So I don’t think it is just as quick as coming back and trying to explain to us [what has changed].”

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