YARMOUTH, N.S. – From an available pot of $70,000, the Town of Yarmouth has allocated $66,600 in grants to community organizations following requests for funding from 36 applicants that totaled $229,319.
Not everyone gets the funding amount they request and that is certainly the case for Th’YARC this year. Th’YARC is getting $580, which is dramatically less than past years.
“We are always grateful for the town's funding support,” says Mitch Bonnar, president of the Yarmouth Arts Regional Council (Th'YARC).
“Having said that, over the past two years this funding has declined from $9,280 to $5,000, and this year down to $580,” he said, saying this will challenge Th'YARC's programming ability.
Th’YARC and the town have been at odds over the location and governance of a new arts centre – the town is looking to construct one on Collins Street, Th’YARC recently finalized an agreement with the Municipality of Yarmouth to purchase the former Arcadia school for Th’YARC’s location.
But any of these plans will only materialize in the future and Th’YARC says it relies on funding now.
“No matter what new arts centre is eventually built in the Yarmouth area, Th'YARC on Parade Street is what our community has now, and all we will have for the next year or longer,” said Bonnar. “The people of Yarmouth, and our summer visitors, can't enjoy plays, or comedy, or music in a theatre that isn't built yet. Our board and membership have made a commitment to keep the lights on in our existing centre until there is an alternative. These funding cutbacks are not making this any easier.”
On the face of it, the lower grant to Th'YARC may seem to some that this is a vindictive move by the town.
But Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood says that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“The arts have always been, and will continue to be, tremendously important to our town and our region. Change, big or small, good or bad, is always met with a great deal of debate and most certainly misunderstanding,” said Mayor Mood. “In this case, council was aware of what the response may be to lowering the grant, however, each of our decisions is made with the vision of what's best for the community and with the full facts in front of us.”
The mayor said grant allocations are based on need and it was felt Th’YARC’s application did not demonstrate need because their submitted financials showed they had $250,000 to $300,000 in the bank.
“According to our Grants to Organizations Policy the Town: ‘will reduce its grant to any organization that has an operating or accumulated surplus of funds,’” Mood said, noting, as well, Th’YARC is not billed annually for the $20,000 it is assessed for in taxes. The mayor says when the town gives grants for taxes so that organizations don’t have to pay that bill (which is less money coming into the town coffers) it rarely also gives funding to these groups through its grants to organization, although the town has done both of these things for Th’YARC in the past.
Mood also said in looking back over the grants to organization funding that has been allocated to Th’YARC over the years it is “increasingly difficult to justify that with the town having only 26 per cent of the population of Yarmouth County, we have consistently paid up to 350 per cent more (to Th’YARC) than the municipality who pays $3,000 per year with 40 to 43 per cent of the population of Yarmouth County.”
“We believe in the arts,” she said, saying the town has always been the largest municipal contributor.
Still, for an organization that was used to receiving a larger grant from the town, this lower grant allotment comes as an unexpected shock. In a media release Th’YARC says the “significant reduction in annual funding from the Town of Yarmouth will put a strain on Th’YARC’s finances.”
When it comes to grant allocations, each councillor and the mayor come up with an amount to give to an organization. What they receive is an average of these figures.
When you remove the six organizations from the town’s list that have received more than $2,000 through the grants to organizations, the grant average is $837, with the lowest being $180.
Organizations that received the highest grants include the Roaring 20’s Antique Auto Club ($11,290), Seafest ($9,000) and the Coal Shed Music Festival ($8,080). The next highest grant ($4,790) is to the Firefighters’ Museum of Nova Scotia.
The mayor said when it comes to events, the economic spinoff is a consideration when some grant amounts are decided on. She points to the car show that has been held on Main Street the past few summers.
“The funds we believe are well spent given not only the off-the-charts economic activity generated before, during and after the car show, but in relation to putting us on the map as a destination, which encourages even more visitors,” she said. “The social impact can't be understated. Anyone at the car show, walking through Main Street, has a feeling of community pride and ownership and it is in keeping with what we are trying to create with regard to who we are and what we want to happen in our town.”
The town also had new requests this year and provided funding to the HOPE Dial-a-Ride ($2,290), the Royal Canadian Legion ($3,930) and the Yarmouth Dog Park Association ($650).
“We understand as the regional hub and economic center of the region we will pay more as we have more services, but we absolutely punch far above our weight in ensuring these services are provided to not only town residents, but residents of the entire region,” said the mayor.
However, it can’t fully fund every one’s requests.
Between the applications the town received for grants to organizations and the requests for tax relief, the town was asked to give out funding totaling $532,657 this year.
Another grant to organization that the town is providing is to the Memorial Club in the amount of $1,720. The Memorial Club recently announced it is disbanding but the mayor says it sent a letter asking that consideration still be given to a grant amount to help pay for a special project the club was going to do and for wind-down costs of the club. The town agreed to provide a grant.