Delegation asks council to continue social development coordinator position

Revelstoke Community Social Development Committee chairperson Nelli Richardson led a delegation urging city council to reject cuts to the city's Social Development Coordinator position.

Revelstoke Community Social Development Committee chairperson Nelli Richardson led a delegation urging city council to reject cuts to the city’s Social Development Coordinator position.

The former city councillor appeared at the Feb. 8 council meeting, where she stressed the importance of the position to the social sector in Revelstoke.

Jill Zacharias is the current Social Development Coordinator, a contract position with the city. She helps coordinate social sector activities in the city. Her recent projects include work on an age-friendly plan, a seniors resource guide, a substance abuse strategy, a social service directory, and work with seniors initiatives.

Funding for the position came into question during the ongoing budget process.

$50,000 in annual funding for the position was included in the original draft budget presented in late 2010, explained finance director Graham Inglis. After council requested budget cut scenarios, a later draft proposed eliminating funding for the position in mid-2011. The latest budget draft includes 50 per cent funding for the position, or $25,000, but this funding is contingent on finding an outside source to make up the other half, such as a grant.

“The social fabric of this community matters to us, and we’re hoping, and I so urge that we have continued support for full funding for the social development coordinator’s position,” said Richardson.

“As Revelstoke experiences change due to the resort development and external pressures like the global economy, it is critical to keep abreast of social issues as they emerge and maintain the community capacity to facilitate proactive planning for positive social change,” Richardson writes in a letter submitted to council. “Social planning is one of the four pillars of community sustainability and builds community resiliency.”

It was one of several letters written in support of continued funding for the position.

“It is noteworthy to mention that the Social Development Coordinator brings significant resources to Revelstoke via grants and technical expertise,” writes social development committee member Shirley Berg. “To cut the social development division’s budget will also mean cutting financial grants and technical expertise to our community.”

Revelstoke Child Care Society chairperson Carolyn Duncan reminded council the social development coordinator position was created to help with social pressures arising from the development of Revelstoke Mountain Resort: “City council at the time required the resort to contribute to studying the social impact of the resort on the community,” Duncan writes. “Many of these impacts have been realized with some of our residents struggling to meet their basic needs.”

School District 19 Superintendent of Schools Anne Cooper listed benefits of the position, including supporting seniors, the substance abuse strategy, a social services directory and work on the Community Development Action Plan. “Supporting this position would be an investment in children, families and our community’s well-being. I would ask that council keep the importance of this position in mind as it addresses its upcoming budget.”

Council asked Richardson several questions following her presentation.

Mayor David Raven said council was facing pressures to cut the budget and taxes. “What should we be throwing off the table?” he asked.

“I don’t think social sector is where you cut,” said Richardson. “This hurts people right now.”

Coun. Steve Bender questioned about how the position fits in with other social service providers, and how success is quantified. “Is there a duplication of services?” he asked.

Richardson said the coordinator helps avoid duplicating services by coordinating efforts. She said quantifying successes is difficult in the social field. “It’s very hard to be able to demonstrate what comes out of the work,” Richardson said.

Coun. Chris Johnston asked Richardson what her long-term vision for the contract position was.

Richardson said she’d like the city to fund the position, but also wants Revelstoke Mountain Resort to assist as well. She said that was part of the plan for the position when it was created when she was on council.

Council deliberations on the budget are ongoing and there was no motion arising from the presentation.