Stettler services facing budget deficits

Stettler  town report

With 288 registered members aged six to 18, Heartland Youth Centre (HYC) offers a number of programs to Stettler town and county kids and manages the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in the area.

Pauline Christian, HYC Board Treasurer, along with Christel Schuckberg and student Tia Fitzpatrick, presented HYC’s 2016 budget to Stettler town council at the Jan. 19 meeting.

The youth centre is facing a deficit of $92,150 for 2016. With total revenue of $71,700 and fundraising at $125,600, the centre will fall short of meeting its $289,450 budget.

According to Christian, the centre will have to meet the shortfall with reserves.

“We’ve always maintained about a year of cash reserves,” stated Christian.

Stettler town has contributed $40,000 to the centre each year since 2013, covering an amount that Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) funded in the past but discontinued when FCSS funds were cut.

“We still don’t receive any money from FCSS,” explained Christian and requests to the county for funding have gone unanswered, even though 25 per cent of kids using HYC are from the county.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program has been of enormous benefit to Tia Fitzpatrick, who gave a report of her experience in the program and the bond she has made with her mentor, whom Fitzpatrick described as  ‘a friend for all time’.

However, according to Schuckberg, finding male mentors to match with boys, some of whom have been waiting for over two years, has been difficult.

According to Schuckberg, the problem is not just in Stettler or Alberta but also across North America.
Council approved a $40,000 contribution to HYC.

Handibus providing essential service

The Stettler and District Handibus Society is also looking at utilizing reserves in 2016 to purchase a new medical van.

With $43,000 in reserves for the $60,000 purchase, the Society is hoping the town will approve an additional $10,000 contribution, above the $20,000 the town contributes to the Society’s operating budget.

The Society operates the handibus, the only wheelchair accessible public transportation for the town and county, as well as a smaller medical van, which is used primarily to transport passengers to medical appointments within Alberta but also acts as a backup when the handibus is being serviced.

“We’re all very well aware of what the economy is like,” stated Cindy MacDonnell, Society Chairperson, who attended the meeting along with Handibus Coordinator Judy McKnight to present their 2016 budget to council.

According to MacDonnell, the Society expects to dip into reserves to cover the predicted $13,704 deficit of the $124,618 budget.

Raising the fees for passengers is not an option the Society is considering. Currently, a one-way trip in town costs $5. Out of town trips are charged a per kilometre rate plus a flat fee. Between the handibus and handivan, 7899 passengers used the services in 2015.

Council passed a motion to support the $20,000 contribution for 2016. They will also consider contributing $10,000 towards the new van if the Society is unable to secure funds elsewhere.

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