Swimming against the financial current



It's hard to dispute Councillor Mary Jean McFall's intentions when she argues for city funding of the YMCA pool.

McFall, who co-chairs this year's big YMCA fundraising campaign, known as the Strong Kids Campaign, with her husband, Ian, clearly cares about the local Y.

And she clearly sees an ethical flaw in the current swimming pool situation.

While other municipalities of Brockville's size and up provide public swimming pools for their constituents, on the municipal dime, here in Brockville the Y has been providing that service since the mid-1990s.

The city contributed $600,000 toward the construction of the YMCA pool. It happened after the municipally-run Rotary pool fell into disuse. Officials felt at the time it made more sense to help the Y build its pool rather than build a new one strictly for the city.

The crux of the ethical argument is whether or not that hefty capital funding is a sufficient city share to justify the perpetual use of the Y's pool, at a modest sum, by non-Y-members who are city taxpayers.

Those on McFall's side of the argument, while conceding things are a little tight for the city right now, argue it is not. Some portion of the Y's staffing and other expenses goes toward running the pool for non-members, and the city should help with that portion in the form of annual operating funds.

It amounts, in their view, to hiring someone to provide a service on contract. Up to now, the city has been getting away with getting that service free.

It's a hair-raising view, no doubt, to fiscal conservatives who are wary of moving the city's support for the Y from the capital side to the operating budget, where it then becomes a permanent annual expense for local taxpayers, competing with the arts centre, the library, the arenas and so on.

Another jump-gap, if you will.

The dynamics of the current council on budget issues suggests this “conversation” about funding the Y pool will not last long – or may not even start, at least this year.

Because in uncertain political and economic times, the financial arguments tend to trump the ethical ones.