Like many community groups, the Lakedell Agricultural Society is facing budget challenges in Alberta’s struggling economy.
Following a presentation made by members of the society at Wetaskiwin County councils Feb. 16 meeting councillors approved a one-time donation of $16,000 from the Recreation Zone 2 Operating Reserve to the society.
“We’re here to request funds … we have a plan we want to discuss with you,” director Tim Belec announced to the councillors.
“In a nutshell we would like some help with some critical operating expenses,” said Belec, who added the Lakedell Agricultural Society is experiencing a time of low cash flow.
Belec said the situation the society is in now rivals that of the 2008 recession, and even then the group was able to just get by without coming to the County of Wetaskiwin for additional support.
Prior to the presentation the Lakedell Agricultural Society board of directors took some time to identify strengths, weaknesses, challenging factors and plans of action.
“We estimate, and I think this is a very conservative number, that we have over 100,000 person visits in attendance every year,” said Belec.
“We generate between $600,000 and $700,000 in economic activity for the area,” he added.
One of the factors that contributed to the society’s situation is the staffing changes it has undergone, resulting in some inefficiencies, longer hours and loss of process. “Quite frankly we took our eye off the ball a little bit,” said Belec.
Event costs are also on the rise and Belec says the Lakedell Agricultural Society has a challenging regular cash flow cycle. “Our revenue and expenses fluctuate dramatically over the year.”
“We’re in a deficit probably seven months out of the year. Historically, February, things are always extremely tight for us,” he added.
Economic changes are another factor and Belec says the value of grants are eroding. The Lakedell Agricultural Society receives (CORRECTED) $17,500 from the Alberta Agriculture Base Grant and while the amount of money is still the same, due to inflation it is having less of an effect. “We’ve lost at least one-third of that value,” said Belec.
The Lakedell Agricultural Society also had a GST audit a few years back. The society was informed it needed to claim GST as a public service body, which it had not been doing and was not aware it needed to despite employing chartered accounts.
The outcome was $17,000 owing. “It basically ate up our entire operating grant,” said Belec.
“As part of our action plan we’ve identified some specific expenditure reductions,” said Belec.
Strict employee work-time controls are to be put in place; staffing levels will be kept the same but with reduced hours. Belec says there will be a reduction in print advertising endeavours, and repairs and maintenance will be kept to urgent and safety issues.
The Lakedell Agricultural Society is also looking to increase revenue by increasing arena usage fees, curling fees, bar prices and rental fees.
With these changes, Belec says there will be an estimate $50,000 surplus.