By Heather Abrey
Kitchener Post staff
Last year, the city’s leisure access program, which provides recreation subsidies for low-income residents, went $35,000 over budget, and there are currently no plans to increase that budget in 2013, according to Ward 9 Coun. Frank Etherington.
“For this year they budgeted $107,100 and they spent that. They went over the top of that,” he said.
“What I intend to push for is to increase that amount by at least that $35,000.”
To find those funds, Etherington is asking that councillors give up their home office and technology budgets, which he says allow councillors to access $5,300 each per four-year term.
This money can be spent on things like computers, printers, cell phones or furnishing a home office. They also receive an operating budget to pay for expenses like internet and cell phone bills.
According to Etherington, councillors rarely use all the money allocated for this purpose, leaving thousands of dollars sitting unused in the fund.
“Why not move over that budgeted amount to the . . . leisure access program?” he said.
The program served 1,754 people so far in 2012, according to Etherington, and the shortfall in the fund was covered by donations from programs like the Canadian Tire Jumpstart program.
Programs like Jumpstart are feeling the donation squeeze, he said, and can’t be something the city relies on.
Individuals and families that qualify as low-income can receive money to help cover fees for recreation and leisure programs, like swim programs and city-run summer camps.
“There’s a mixture of seniors and adults and children that qualify for that kind of subsidy,” said Etherington.
“I think it’s very generous, but it’s been falling behind and we need to stay abreast of it. I think the more newcomers that come into the region and with the high unemployment levels we’re seeing, you’re going to find more and more families with this kind of need.”
Many decisions regarding assistance for low-income residents fall to regional council, according to Etherington, but this is one area where city council can assist. And the need isn’t going away.
“I would expect that it’s going to get worse for us before it gets better.”