"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Tuesday 12 April 2011

In For A Penny ...In For A Pound

Elizabeth Bishenden has left a new comment on your post "You May Have Heard About This":

I would be interested to know if those charities operate in Aurora.

As many of you know, the Town does support a few Aurora-centric (sorry for inventing a new word) registered charities and not-for-profits, including the Aurora Cultural Centre, the Aurora Public Library, and several other sports, cultural, and general membership groups.

While some people believe that the Town should support no charities, I believe the Town should develop a policy that treats all charities and not-for-profit groups equally.

Councillor Michael Thompson has made a notice of motion to Council that he will be asking them to address this particular issue.

Be sure to let Mr. Thompson and the other councillors know your thoughts. Undoubtedly the Town will be looking for a variety of points of view.

All the Councillors can be reached at allcouncillors@aurora.on.ca.

Elizabeth  I do not agree with your  basic premise. The Library  is not a public charity. It is a long established public service .It is wholly supported from taxes, mainly municipal but a provincial grant is also received.

The library board applied for status as a charitable foundation in order to be able to provide receipts to donors who pledged support to the capital cost of construction of the new building. Other voluntary donations are received from people who believe in the value of a library.

The Aurora Optimists Club contributes annually from proceeds of a book sale. The funds are not part of the library's operating budget.

Sports organisations  and various arts and cultural associations are not charities. They provide services  in return for a membership fee.

The town does not  have a  policy to support charities. Council does it though.  By a waiver of user fees for a facility usually.

 I do not agree with that. It's not fair to those  who pay the fees with the understanding everyone makes  a fair contribution for use of the facility.

If  event organisers anticipate raising thousands of dollars for a charity from public participation. they should not ask for free use of facilities. If asked, politicians should have the intestinal fortitude to say no.

Neither do I believe it is  at all reasonable  to direct staff to recommend which charities should be supported and which  should not.

It's a poor excuse for a council that can't exercise judgment without a policy drawn up by staff to tell them what to do  every step of the way.



Anonymous said...

"If event organisers anticipate raising thousands of dollars for a charity from public participation. they should not ask for free use of facilities. If asked, politicians should have the intestinal fortitude to say no."

Yes, exactly. I would like to see much more "intestinal fortitude" and more "no" so that we can spend on core services and keep things under control. "No" across the board is fair.

Anonymous said...

I agree, and I am sure that many/most others do as well. The answer should be "No". Let me decide which charities to support with my money. The council should spend my money on the efficient delivery of services to the residents of Aurora.

Council MUST get this message. If the answer is always "No", BTW, then it really does not take any fortitude to say no at all, because everyone will get the message that the answer is, and will always be, "No", and they will stop asking.

Elizabeth Bishenden said...

By definition a charity has to provide a public benefit. So being a charity is a public service.

The Aurora Public Library has been a registered charity for more than a decade. It collects donations and uses them for projects that benefit the community. It is governed by the Aurora Public Library Board, an independent organization that under the rules of the Library Act cannot be controlled by Town Council, even if it receives money from the tax base. Evelyn is quite right that the Town funds the operating budget and that other donations go to special projects, but that is dependent on the collegial relationship between the Town and the Library. Many public libraries in Ontario are not as well funded as Aurora's and do depend on charitable donations to ensure that they can continue to operate with minimal service levels.

The Library is not the only large charity the Town works with. Others are the Aurora Seniors' Association, the Aurora Cultural Centre, and the York Region District School Board (yes, a registered charity!) all of which have long-term agreements with the Town.

I honestly don't think that the Aurora Jazz Festival should be given any money. My reasons are different, though, and don't depend on the idea that the Town isn't already working with some charities to provide public services.

Charities, like small businesses, not for profits, big businesses, and residents are part of the fabric of the Town of Aurora and should be considered when the Town Council sets its policies.

That, by the way, brings up another point. No, staff should definitely not be crafting policy for Council. Council is the governing body. It sets policy for staff to follow.

Anonymous said...

Okay Elizabeth,

If the library and YDSB are charities, I will hereby deduct the portion of my taxes that go to those resources because only I decide which charities I will fund and I do not want government to decide that for me. Furthermore, do these organizations fall under the tax laws for charity organizations?

In all seriousness, I think that you are going out there on a thin limb about these being charities. The core finances are not through charity donations and if they were to rely on donations, they would fold up in a second.