Youth centre puts fate in city budget
Request for $175,000 for 2013 will go to budget deliberations
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 01, 2012 06:00 am
The Youth Community Centre hopes to stave off its closure by submitting a funding request to city council during its budget deliberations later this year.
The move comes after the centre’s board met with Couns. Roger Lemieux and Malcolm Parker, as well as members of city administration and Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) Thursday morning.
What came out of the discussions is that the board, in conjunction with administration, will develop a business case for the 2013 budget, which council takes up in November.
The youth centre had stated in an open letter to council at the beginning of August that it would close at the end of the year if it didn’t receive a commitment of $175,000 by Aug. 30, which would have allowed it to continue operating in 2013.
“We made the commitment we would continue to operate for the fall and we will start to develop our business and program plan in support of the request,” said board chair Doug Campbell.
That plan will see the youth centre operate as a slimmer, smaller entity with programming that is more focused on prevention for youth. A lack of such programming was one of the reasons the community services advisory board recommended to council in April to no longer fund youth centre programming after the 2012 year.
The advisory board also noted a duplication of services between other city-offered programs and other non-profits in St. Albert.
All parties involved in Thursday’s meeting described it as productive and positive.
“The dialogue was really excellent and I think there will be something really excellent coming out of it for all parties involved,” said Lemieux.
According to Parker, there is a feeling that a budget request would be met favourably so long as the youth centre continues to make changes to its operations.
“We asked what kind of progress have you been making and … they came back and said we are moving forward,” Parker said. “So when they take that into account and bring that forward, it will make it very interesting in what the business case will have.”
Campbell was more succinct.
“At this point we’re confident our budget request will meet with the approval of council,” he said. “There was a renewed commitment in the need for the youth centre, which was very positive for us.”
What’s unclear is exactly how the business case for $175,000 will be developed. Council this year amended how it funds outside agencies by allocating a “city manager’s purse” for outside agencies’ requests. The purse allows the city manager to allocate funds based on previous years’ requests. The intent is to depoliticize the budget process, as well as allow for requests for funding over multiple years, something that has never been done before.
“It’s kind of a dual effort in the sense that administration can put together the business case and at the same time, rely on some input from around the board on what they want to do,” Parker said.
By budget time, the youth centre should be running differently than it has been to date, Campbell said. Options on the table include reducing the amount of space the centre uses, reducing staff and relying more on volunteers for programs. Campbell said moving the centre is not out of the question, but he hopes it can simply use less of the space it occupies in Grandin mall.
“Our hope is we would be able to do that at our present location,” Campbell said.
If the youth centre changes its programming enough, it could also re-apply for FCSS grant funding, Campbell added.
“They have never said we couldn’t re-apply.”