Stable funding secured for Comox Valley arts groups

The Comox Valley Regional District has established an arts and culture grant service that will provide annual, sustainable funding to several non-profit societies, pending approval of a budget.

An alternative approval process (AAP) allowed the establishment of the service, which will be funded by residents in electoral areas A, B and C. Denman and Hornby islands are excluded.

The Comox Valley Art Gallery is among the beneficiaries. Gallery executive director Glen Sanford credits municipal governments for recognizing that arts and culture sectors are "absolutely vital to our local economy and to our way of life.

"It's always a challenge for small and medium-size arts centres to make sure they're surviving. But the kind of stability we're seeing helps us focus on providing great exhibitions and programming."

The gallery had been crippled in recent years by an accumulating deficit, though last year it was no longer in a deficit position. Still, the danger of falling back into a deficit is always there.

"We still have a long ways to go, but these are steps in the right direction," Sanford said.

Comox Valley Farmers' Market manager Vickey Brown says extra funding will help the organization "considerably." Each year, the market has needed to apply for a grant-in-aid.

"We've been pretty lucky over the years. This just adds that extra bit of security that we can work that money into our budget and count on it," Brown said. "Some of the biggest expenses in our budget are facility rentals. It's great to know that we can cover those."

Other organizations that would initially receive funding include the Community Arts Council, Pearl Ellis Gallery, Sid Williams Theatre and the three local museums.

Like the farmers' market, the Sid applies to governments each for discretionary grant money.

"As a theatre that is heavily used by local non-profit community groups, we have always needed to have our yearly financial requirements offset by government grants," said Catherine Miller, president of the Sid Williams Theatre Society. "This stability in funding allows us to budget with certainty around our operational goals."

The electoral areas services committee will consider a 2014-2018 budget report this month. If approved, those with property assessed at $350,000 would pay an increase ranging from 75 cents to $2.50 in 2014, depending on the area. In subsequent years, the tax increase would be less than one dollar each year.

At the close of the AAP, a total of 42 elector response forms were submitted. Ten per cent (1,592 electors) needed to respond to prevent the district board from adopting the service bylaw without going to referendum.


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