A new cultural fund established by the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) in its 2023 budget returned for a spirited discussion at the March 8 Committee of the Whole meeting.

In the 2023 budget, council agreed to allocate $50,000 for each of the eight municipalities to use as a cultural fund on specific projects. The fund was originally suggested by Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux, but at the March 8 UCPR Committee of the Whole meeting, he explained how Russell Township council had recently adopted a resolution requesting the cultural fund allocation be indexed to each municipality’s tax contribution to the UCPR, rather than a single, flat rate for each municipality.

Leroux said Russell council objects to the flat amount allocation because the township contributes 25 per cent of the UCPR’s revenue but gets about half that amount in return from the regional government.

Leroux emphasized he did not support the resolution made by Russell council. However he suggested adjustments be made to the 2024 UCPR budget to make the allocation more equitable. Leroux said he would like every municipality to still receive a minimum of $50,000 from the cultural fund.

Casselman Mayor Geneviève Lajoie objected to adjusting how much each municipality receives.

“I voted in favour to the original idea that we each receive the equal amount of money regardless of tax base, regardless of levy system,” Lajoie said.

She said each municipality should receive an equal amount, or nothing at all.   

Clarence-Rockland Mayor Mario Zanth noted how his city pays 27 per cent of the UCPR’s tax revenue and Casselman’s contribution is 4.4 per cent. He noted a base amount of $50,000 would remain in place.

“When it comes to a fund for community, we have to look at how much community we have,” Zanth said, alleging $50,000 goes further in Casselman than if it is spread out over six villages in Clarence- Rockland.

Zanth said Clarence-Rockland council is poised to adopt a similar resolution to what Russell Township council adopted.

“People have already started making commitments with this money and we don’t have a policy, and now we’re arguing about the amount of it,” remarked Lajoie.

“We’re not arguing the amount, you’ll still get $50,000,” interjected Warden Normand Riopel.

“I disagree with going over $50,000 because this is $1.6 million in four years,” responded Lajoie.

Chief Administrative Officer Stéphane Parisien noted Russell Township will honour this year’s commitment of $50,000 per municipality, but whatever follows depends on budget discussions.

Leroux said he cannot disregard the direction of his township’s council and noted there are other UCPR budget allocations that are based on each municipality’s tax contribution.

The mayors agreed to maintain the $50,000 for each municipality from the cultural fund for 2023. A follow-up on the discussion will be presented at a future UCPR council meeting.