Council approves BIA budgets and use of surplus funds to support mega-hospital appeal
Staff added the dollars to BIA budgets that were initially subtracted
City of Windsor council has approved budgets for all business improvement associations (BIA) in the city.
This comes after local BIAs reached an agreement with city staff on a way to continue donating to the mega-hospital appeal without using money from their 2019 budget.
BIAs would use reserve funds for those donations to Citizens for an Accountable Megahospital Planning Process (CAMPP), a group that is appealing the location of the new hospital on County Road 42.
"What we decided to do was to all take a step back from what has become a contentious issue unnecessarily," said Pat Papadeas, vice-chair of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association (DWBIA).
During council's debate, Ward 3 Coun. Rino Bortolin took issue with the city's attempts to control the actions of BIAs.
"As a city all we do is collect the dues from the businesses and flow them through to the BIAs," said Bortolin.
"For us to overstep and go in the scenario where we are now controlling a democratically-elected board is overstepping."
However, Coun. Irek Kusmierczyk pointed to the City of Toronto's approach to BIAs, where a local bylaw restricts BIA's actions. One tenet specifically outlines that BIAs cannot take a position that contravenes city council.
After a half-hour long debate, mayor Drew Dilkens said he "reluctantly" supports Bortolin's motion to allow the establishment of a formal BIA reserve fund. Usage of dollars from that fund would not require city council approval, according to Papadeas.
The issue of the BIA budgets was first raised by Dilkens on May 17, 2019, when he said BIA boards that make donations to support a group opposing the mega-hospital site could be dismantled. He said the donations violate the Municipality Act.
In March, the DWBIA donated $5,000 to CAMPP. The Via Italia BIA donated $2,500 and Wyandotte Town Centre BIA donated $1,000.
In a report from May 27, city staff recommended council approve BIA budgets only after the specific line items containing the donations to CAMPP were removed.
New way forward
The line items initially removed from the budgets were added back in, and Council approved them as is on June 3.
Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac put forward a motion for staff to come back with guidelines on how BIAs should outline their expenditures in annual reports in a way that provides more transparency.
The report will also include a survey of best practices of BIAs across Ontario.
Council approved that motion.
- A previous version of the story said BIAs agreed to not use 2019 budgets to donate to CAMPP's appeal. However, the organizations are still donating to the appeal, but the money will be coming from a surplus fund which the City of Windsor council does not have to approve.Jun 03, 2019 3:31 PM ET
With files from Chris Ensing