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Council hears from community groups during 2021 budget talks

The Moose Jaw Police Service and Moose Jaw Public Library were just two groups that addressed city council on Nov. 26 about their financial needs in 2021

Whether it’s the police or seniors, murals or burrowing owls, city council will soon decide which community groups deserve to be included in the 2021 municipal budget.

Council kicked off its 2021 budget deliberations on Nov. 26 by hearing from 15 groups — making presentations either in-person or online — about the funding they require next year. Afterward, council unanimously approved a motion to send the requests to the upcoming budget discussions, which occur on Dec. 3, 10 and 17.

The following groups are asking for funding for 2021, with 2020 funding added for comparison:

  • Moose Jaw Police Service: Operating funding of $10.6 million and capital funding of $450,000 / $10.1 million and $67,500
  • Moose Jaw Public Library: $1.2 million / $1.04 million
  • STARS Air Ambulance: $3,500  / $0
  • Moose Jaw and District Seniors: $50,000 / $35,000
  • Cosmo Senior Citizens Association: $40,000 / $15,000
  • Tourism Moose Jaw: $94,555 / $90,775
  • Canada Day committee: $2,580 / $2,534
  • Festival of Words: $8,024 / $7,867
  • Murals of Moose Jaw: $13,380 / $13,300
  • Cultural centre: $163,410 / $156,979
  • Art museum: $139,835 / $134,296
  • Saskatchewan Burrowing Owls: $6,537 / $6,428
  • Moose Jaw Airport Authority: $30,000 plus bridge financing guarantee / $30,000 and hangar leases and farmland lease revenue
  • Moose Jaw Humane Society: $232,962 / $229,029
  • Wakamow Valley Authority: $329,612 / $329,616
  • Moose Jaw River Watershed Stewards: $10,000 / $10,000

Presentation: Moose Jaw Police Service

The Moose Jaw Police Service presented its 2021 budget to the Board of Police Commissioners on Oct. 20, laying out its funding needs and goals, including two new officers.

“Moose Jaw has the lowest rate of police officers in Saskatchewan,” police Chief Rick Bourassa told council, pointing out the community has 171 officers per 100,000 people, which is the lowest among cities in Saskatchewan.

The police board has increased the organization’s strength over the years, with those additions ensuring MJPS has the resources to meet the community’s needs, he continued. When the two new officers appear by July, this will increase the service’s official rate to 174 officers per 100,000 people.

Using crime statistics from 2018, Bourassa noted the crime rate was 10,076 incidents, a trend that has “been ticking up” since 2013. Furthermore, the violent crime severity index — major incidents such as homicides, assaults, and robberies — was 121, which has increased since 2013.

“We have seen a shift in the types of crime we’re investigating and dealing with,” he said, noting violence is now more acceptable to handle problems. “The rest of the country is seeing similar things.”

The police service has also seen an increase in drug use, thefts and domestic abuse during the pandemic, along with more calls related to mental health.

The MJPS is focused on building a community that is welcoming and harmonious, Bourassa continued. It is working especially closely with marginalized people since they are more likely to be victimized.

“Overall, we’re a very busy, a very lean, a very collaborative police service that is working hard in our community, province and country to earn the respect and trust that people expect and deserve,” he added.

Presentation: Moose Jaw Public Library

The library had a great start to 2020, hosting activities such as Family Literacy Day, I Read Canadian Day, and the annual Seedy Saturday event, which attracted more than 160 people interested in heirloom seeds, biodiversity and gardening, said head librarian Gwen Fisher.

“It was a fun and educative event. The library does try to find new and innovative learning ways for the community,” she remarked.

The library closed in March and reduced its workforce. However, it created a virtual help desk that eventually answered 2,800 questions, provided support for digital resources and reference and archival research, and issued 2,000 temporary library cards.

From March onward, it created 45 virtual programs for 390 adults, 40 programs for 128 youths and 24 programs for 273 kids.  It also distributed 1,000 literacy and craft kits to day camp programs at YaraCentre and Hunger in Moose Jaw

Physical library items are still popular, but it was handy this year to have digital resources, said Fisher. The library redirected money from print to digital since it couldn’t lend anything.

Overall, it was still a record-breaking year for lending materials, as more than 57,054 movies, TV shows, albums, books and audiobooks were issued. Furthermore, the library saw a 60-per-cent increase in usage, which Fisher noted was “truly remarkable.”

The organization will focus on three areas in 2021: making the library space more welcoming by improving the customer service desk and children’s library, developing technology-related learning opportunities, and improving organizational effectiveness.

“It was truly a wild year,” Fisher added.

Council’s first discussion about the 2021 budget is Thursday, Dec. 3.