County boosting funding for rural facilities

Red Deer County is boosting funding for rural facilities and cemeteries by nearly $200,000.

Red Deer County is boosting funding for rural facilities and cemeteries by nearly $200,000.

Council voted Tuesday to increase the amount doled out through several programs to $585,500 from $385,600.

The sharp funding jump prompted a few words of caution from a pair of county councillors.

Jim Lougheed said he was in favour of the programs to support community halls, other rural facilities and cemeteries but did not want to see funding boosted too rapidly. If the cost of supporting the programs gets too high, the county could face tax increases or the prospect of cutting back programs community groups had come to expect.

Councillor George Gerhke said he also did not want to see the funding help grow out of proportion.

Ric Henderson, county community and protective services director, said the programs were rolled out several years ago following the completion of a major review of community services needs.

The popular programs were reviewed in 2007, and again last year, and staff determined more funding would be helpful. The plan is not to make large annual boosts to the programs.

“This is a refining of the policy that should still stay in effect for some time to come.”

Henderson also pointed out the county has pared down the number of facilities that receive funding to 32 from more than 60 previously.

Under the approved changes, the maximum annual operating grants for community halls will increase to $7,500 from $5,000. Also, there are now five different funding levels, compared with three previously.

Agricultural societies operating facilities in the county will get $50,000 to help run an arena, $10,000 for other outdoor facilities, and $7,500 for halls.

The maximum available as part of a Rural Community Facility Capital Assistance Grant has been increased to $100,000 from $75,000. Since the program had more applicants than available money in past years, county staff recommended the total amount up for grabs be boosted to $250,000 from $100,000.

Funding available to maintain cemeteries has been boosted to a range of $500 to $2,500 from $400 to $1,200. The maximum available every three years for a cemetery capital assistance grant has been boosted to $5,000 from $4,000.

A program that provided up to $3,500 for community facility or playground assessments was dropped because it is no longer needed.