By Roy L Hales
On October 26 Cortes Islanders will be having a referendum to decide two important tax issues. While there is little doubt that the proposal to fund first responders will pass, the debate about public funding of Cortes Island’s community halls has been going on for the past decade. For a house like mine, sitting on a one acre lot in Squirrel Cove, this will cost about $60 a year. Yet while a large number of Cortesians regard their halls as the heart of the community, where you go for public meetings, entertainment and a variety of ongoing services, another segment of the community does not believe they are worth the extra money. My guest this morning, Julian Ayres, President of the Southern Cortes Community Association (SCCA), explains why we should support Mansons Hall.
What Changed in 2017?
Up until 2017, the BC Government provided funding for facilities like Mansons Hall to carry out their daily operations (core funding) through the Gaming Grant program. The decision to stop doing this resulted in an immediate $15,500 per year drop in Manson’s Hall revenues.
“Programming was unaffected. What we lost was the funding for operating expenses, the core expenses that we have been putting into things like insurance, hydro, utilities, telephone. We are not in debt, but we are operating our cash flow very carefully to make sure we have enough funds at all times, in the bank, to cover our expenses as they come up. We break even, because we have to. We can’t spend more money than we have,” says Julian Ayres.
How Did This Affect Mansons Hall?
- Mansons Hall office used to be open three days a week (Mon, Wed, Fri), but is now only open Fridays.
- The SCCA carried out $500,000 worth of renovations and upgrades to the hall during the past decade. Almost all of these were made through grants that require matching funds. For example, A $12,500 grant would need to be matched by 12,500 raised by the SCCA. Gaming grant funds could be counted in the SCCA tally, but are no longer available. As a result of the drop in revenues, the SCCA has not been able to these other valuable grants since 2017.
- Important repairs and maintenance are deferred until funds can be raised. (Example: the problems with the halls heating system last year.)
- The SCCA Board’s time is now consumed by trying to raise enough money to pay the bills. (Example: the recent fund raiser to raise enough money to pay the insurance)
“We’d really prefer to be spending time on things like developing new programs for the community, or expanding the Playschool, for example. I’ve served on the board for twenty years and I’ve watched board after board frazzle out just trying to find money,” says Julian Ayres.
And If Hall Funding Is Approved …
- The Mansons Hall office will once again be open three days a week
- Expand the Playschool
- The SCCA will be in a better position when they apply for special grants (like the recent renovations) that require charities to have matching funds.
How Often Is Mansons Halls used?
According to Ayres, hundreds of people use the hall every week. Perusing the SCCA’s calendar, you can see that some weeks there are events scheduled every day and some days there are four or five events. This does not include ongoing operations like the Post Office or Cortes Radio. In addition to special events, Mansons Hall is currently home to:
- Cortes Community Radio, CKTZ, 89.5 FM.
- Cortes Island Playschool
- Cortes Pottery Guild
- Cortes Women’s Resource Centre
- Friday Markets at Mansons Hall
- Friends of Cortes Island
- Mansons Hall Thrift store
- Mansons Hall Post Office
- Pioneer Room (currently used by the Toki Bap Cafe three or four days of the week)
- Reel Youth
- Summer Youth Recreation Program
Also In the Podcast
- What does the Southern Cortes Community Association do?
- Can anyone become a member?
- Do SCCA Board members receive any financial compensation? Or are they volunteers from the community?
- How many full time employees does the SCCA have? (zero) What about part time employees?
- How do other small rural communities fund their halls?
- Are there any other publicly funded services? – (example: police, schools, hospitals, the fire department, post office, roads etc)
- Should we support Mansons Hall (and the Gorge Hall) through our taxes? How important are they to the Cortes Island community?