Continues support for youth centre, handibus

Written by Stu Salkeld

The Town of Stettler has continued its financial support of two social organizations in the municipality. The funding commitments were made at the Nov. 15 regular meeting of council.

Stettler town council heard detailed presentations from two groups that annually receive direct financial support from local taxpayers, the Heartland Youth Centre and the Stettler and District Handibus Society.

Youth centre
The youth centre represented by Winnie Bissett, Melanie Koch, Ruby MacDonell, Amanda Nelson and Mayah Smith presented a projected 2023 budget.

The budget listed operating expenses estimated to be $420,826 which would be offset by program revenue of $113,700, leaving a 2023 deficit of $307,126. The youth centre projects they will fundraise $197,400 ultimately leaving a projected shortfall of $109,726.

A staff memo included in the agenda noted since 2019 the Town of Stettler granted $50,000 annually to the youth centre and staff also recommended that amount be set aside for the youth centre in 2023.

Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Greg Switenky noted that amount equals about one per cent of the town budget.

Executive Director Bissett noted the youth centre’s budget has increased a bit for 2023, mostly through factors that the organization can’t control such as insurance and staffing costs.

She added that the youth centre has fundraising events planned for 2023 but such events can sometimes be unpredictable.

Bissett noted the youth centre relies on a lot of grants, some of which were relatively easy to come by during the COVID pandemic; the organization is looking at diversifying its grant applications to reflect the services it offers.

She pointed out the youth centre runs 20 to 25 programs a year and membership is at an all-time high and more kids means a larger budget.
Coun. Gord Lawlor stated he was glad to see initiative and creativity at the organization when it comes to budgeting.

Coun. Wayne Smith asked why membership had climbed. The executive director answered the youth centre hired a part-time staffer to work to offer mental health services and this staffer also has some marketing expertise which may have translated into more buzz, while programming may have attracted new families.

Coun. Kurt Baker noted he was happy to see an organization in Stettler offering caring, nurturing programs.

Councillors unanimously approved setting aside $50,000 in the 2023 town budget for the Heartland Youth Centre.

Councillors examined a projected 2023 budget from the handibus society presented by Executive Director Judy McKnight and Chair Bill Gerlock. The budget projected 2023 expenditures of $147,575 and total revenues of $75,743.

The breakdown also noted annual grants from the Town of Stettler, County of Stettler and Superfluity Thrift Store would total $57,000 leaving a projected shortfall of $14,832.

The budget also showed a substantial number of grants the society targets, including casino work.

CAO Switenky stated the town was impressed by the great work the handibus society does every year and added the 2023 town budget is going to be “tough,” while recommending a $25,000 grant, the same as 2022.

Gerlock stated the society only charges riders $6 per trip despite huge operational increases, including fuel.

Mayor Sean Nolls responded that handling those increased costs while keeping the budget low was an impressive feat.

Coun. Smith asked if fuel was the only factor. Gerlock responded insurance has also increased, adding he hopes and assumes fuel will eventually drop in price.

Both handibus representatives agreed leasing the bus was a much better idea than buying it.

Smith said he was amazed at the low price charged for riders. “It’s amazing you can still do it for $6,” said Smith.

Mayor Nolls noted the $25,000 annual grant hasn’t changed since 2018 and the town may have to look at boosting it next year if costs continue to climb.

Councillors unanimously agreed to set aside $25,000 in the 2023 town budget for the Stettler and District Handibus Society.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.