Pair of proposed cuts defeated by budget committee
© Justin Crann
Coun. Brian Swanson listens while budget committee members discuss his motion to slash the Downtown Facility and FieldHouse Board's budget at City Hall Wednesday.
City funding of the Downtown Facility and FieldHouse Board (DFFHB) was once again a lightning rod for controversy at Wednesday evening’s budget committee meeting.
Discussion of the board’s operating budget kicked off when Councillor Brian Swanson tabled a motion to cut it by $200,000.
“I think we need to support (the DFFHB). It’s not just Mosaic Place. We need to ensure we don’t focus solely on that, because I think Yara Centre is being ignored a lot, and it shouldn’t be,” said Councillor Patrick Boyle. “There were 650,000 visitors to those two facilities in 2012. ... That’s like the City of Moose Jaw going through their doors 18 1/2 times.”
“If you think about that, that’s probably something we need to support,” added Boyle.
“There may be room for reducing the grant, and the case could be made. I wouldn’t have as much trouble defending a reduction as I would defending the number we have been presented with in the first place,” said Councillor Don Mitchell.
Swanson found support from Councillor Dawn Luhning, who took issue with an earlier denial from the facilities’s General Manager to provide financial information for the facilities to city council.
“There has to be an onus, to some degree, when you’re getting the level of subsidy that these two facilities are receiving from the taxpayers to be accountable back to us as council,” said Luhning. “I understand what Councillor Boyle is saying, that we should be supportive, and I believe we are supportive. ... Until we get (the financial information), I’ll vote in favour of Councillor Swanson’s motion for that reason alone.”
“I think he agrees he could have said it a lot better,” replied Boyle. “But we’re in the entertainment business ... they don’t release those numbers (publicly) because they can be used against them by promoters.”
Swanson fired back at Boyle’s explanation.
“The comment that we’re in the entertainment business is really disturbing, because I, as a representative of the city, do not think that we, on behalf of the taxpayers, should be in the entertainment business,” said Swanson. “Whether it’s promoting Mellencamp or Marilyn Manson, that’s not the taxpayer’s responsibility.”
“If there was a feeling that it wasn’t handled properly and that’s been recognized, bring (the information) to us,” added Luhning. “Until they’re self-sustaining ... share the information with the other four councillors who aren’t privy to that information but have to vote to give taxpayer money to the facilities.”
Before the vote, Mayor Deb Higgins offered her own perspective.
“While I realize the difficulty in looking at a $660,000 grant to support these facilities, I think you still have to remember the facility is striving to reduce that grant,” said Higgins. “There needs to be support for this facility.”
Swanson’s initial motion was defeated. He then proposed a second motion to reduce the funding by the board’s audited 2012 surplus. It, too, was defeated.
“Somehow, without any accountability (to taxpayers), the city of Moose Jaw is now a player in the entertainment business,” Swanson said. “And it shouldn’t be the taxpayers’s money at risk.”