Stettler town council approved three large, important 2024 budget requests from within the municipal structure.
The presentations and approvals were made at the Dec. 5 regular meeting of council.
First up was Stettler & District Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), represented by community representative Galicia Long.
She noted Executive Director Shelley Walker worked on the 2024 operating budget but wasn’t able to attend the council meeting.
Readers should note the Government of Alberta funds FCSS programs on an 80 per cent to 20 per cent ratio, the former is provincial funds, the latter municipal partner funds.
Long stated FCSS has deep community connections and partners extensively with the food bank, handibus, housing authority and many other groups to deliver programs and services Stettler and area residents want and need.
Some of the programs include community navigation, rural mental health, grief and loss support, financial literacy, supports for seniors, public computer and internet access and much more.
The organization is also involved in community outreach, including events like Seniors Week, the volunteer tax program, Tools for School and the volunteer driver program.
Statistics provided in Long’s presentation illustrate how popular FCSS programming is in Stettler: in 2023 FCSS received 5,426 phone calls, 11,083 walk-in visits and 3,345 emails.
FCSS’ operating budget included a modest increase from last year’s budget: last year the Town of Stettler was requested to provide $39,287 of funding, while for 2024 FCSS was requesting $41,055.
These figures represent the town’s 20 per cent portion.
Coun. Scott Pfeiffer stated he was glad to see the volunteer driver program included, as he’s heard that it’s very popular.
The program pairs volunteer drivers with community members who need out-of-town rides including to medical appointments and offers volunteer expense reimbursement.
Councillors unanimously approved the FCSS 2024 operating budget.
Board of Trade
Second on the list was the Stettler Regional Board of Trade (BOT), represented by Executive Director Byron Geddes.
Stettler’s BOT is somewhat unique in many ways, combining some features of a chamber of commerce with some features of an economic development department.
During his presentation Geddes noted the BOT was requesting a net contribution of $393,145 for its 2024 operating budget, down from last year’s $413,787 request.
Geddes also noted BOT events and programs generate about $147,000 on an estimated 2024 operating budget of $539,715, with the remaining funds coming from the Town of Stettler.
He listed a number of popular programs the BOT spearheads, including the pheasant festival, Big Jack Classic fishing derby, the annual trade show, employment fairs, Alberta Culture Days and many more.
During discussion Geddes stated the Stettler business community is still experiencing some flatness likely as an after effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Councillors unanimously approved the BOT’s 2024 operating budget.
Lastly, town council heard a 2024 operating budget presentation from the Stettler Public Library board and its executive Director Rhonda O’Neill.
“It’s been a very good year,” said O’Neill, who noted the public library is rebounding quite nicely from the pandemic.
The board members noted they were requesting virtually the same grant as last year, $387, 352, which is split between the Town and County of Stettler on a 65/35 per cent ratio.
Last year’s request was identical.
O’Neill reported the number of people attending public library programs is going up, therefore pressures on library staff have also gone up.
During the presentation O’Neill pointed out the library is very much a community hub that shares books, offers free programming, promotes healthy lifestyles, helps newcomers make community connections, provides access to information, offers employment supports and encourages lifelong learning.
The library boasted 1,408 active card holders in 2023, about 200 more than 2022 and in 2023 to date the library has hosted 56,856 visits, up about 1,500 from the year before.
Some of the library’s outreach and community initiatives include the SOARING pilot project for youth, Minds in Motion living with dementia project, seniors and Hutterite colony outreach and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation events.
Mayor Sean Nolls recognized the library for its importance to the community.
“The library is vital to our community and always will be,” said the mayor.
Councillors unanimously approved the library’s 2024 operating budget.
By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Dec 15, 2023 at 09:58