Moncton pledges $500,000 to hospital fundraiser, but source of funds unclear
Gift will go toward equipment for cardiac, neonatal unit expansions at Moncton Hospital
Moncton will donate $500,000 to a fundraising campaign for the Moncton Hospital but will leave it to future councils to figure out how to pay for it.
City council approved the gift for the Friends of the Moncton Hospital's extraordinary care campaign starting in 2021.
The campaign to raise $8 million will pay for advanced equipment in expanded cardiac and neonatal units.
The campaign officially launched in November, when the Friends foundation announced it had already raised 70 per cent of the total sought in donations and pledges.
"It is a campaign that touches not only the hospital but the economic growth of the city," Coun. Pierre Boudreau said at a meeting Monday, adding that furnishing the units with new technology will help lure skilled staff.
The motion passed leaves it to councillors elected after the 2020 municipal election to decide how to pay for the donation. It comes as the city faces projected budget deficits between $700,000 and $810,000 in 2020 and 2021.
"I find it hard to be passing motions for some other council, to have their hands tied," Coun. Bryan Butler said before voting in favour of the motion.
The motion originally called for paying for the donation using funds from the city's grants budget.
But at a committee meeting last week, councillors removed that from the motion amid worries it would result in cuts to grants for groups such as Moncton Headstart, the Boys & Girls Club and Food Depot Alimentaire.
Funding for those groups includes 11 long-term grant agreements that expire by 2021.
Staff suggested increases in the city's property assessment values and, in turn, higher tax revenue from new construction, including the hospital expansion, could help pay for the contribution.
Coun. Greg Turner said the contribution would be small compared with the overall tax benefits and improved health care the expansion will provide.
Coun. Brian Hicks was the lone vote against the proposal.
"I don't think anyone would disagree this is a worthy project, but Moncton is in a very difficult financial position," Hicks said, pointing to providing the University of Moncton with $2.5 million over 10 years for its fundraising campaign, $150,000 for the UFC event last October and subsidizing the Moncton Magic.
He said without any mention of which groups could face grant cuts, and no guarantee the city won't increase overall spending on grants, he couldn't support the motion.
Part of the campaign is raising money for the coronary care unit. After they took office, the Progressive Conservatives delayed the work as part of their first capital budget last year.
But a representative of the Friends of the Moncton Hospital told the committee meeting last week it was the group's understanding the delay won't be more than a year.
The province hasn't said how much the project is worth.
The provincial Liberals announced in 2017 the province would spend $35 million on the neonatal unit.
Construction of the new building between the Professional Arts Building and the hospital's MacBeath Avenue entrance is expected to start in June with occupancy in late 2021.