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Council Backs Riverdale Farm’s New Business Plan

City will continue to fund the farm until fundraising efforts kick in.

Photo by Giordano Ciampini.

After brief debate this morning, city councillors voted unanimously to accept a business plan for Riverdale Farm created by a new citizen group called the Riverdale Farm Coalition, and to maintain the necessary funding levels to keep the farm open in the meantime. Essentially, the decision amounts to an agreement in principle to support the Farm’s budget and meet operating needs—in the first place, the feeding and maintenance of the animals—if fundraising efforts don’t fully cover expenses. (“In principle” because council will need to reaffirm this decision when they vote on the 2013 budget.)

That interim funding is important, the Coalition has argued, because ramping up the fundraising efforts they outlined in their plan will take some time. They have raised $17,000 since the beginning of June, and anticipate raising $100,000 in 2012; the goal is to raise up to $345,000 when those efforts are fully up to speed [PDF]. Riverdale Farm’s operations are projected to cost $493,900 this year, so if those fundraising efforts bear fruit they will end up covering a substantial portion of costs.

Today’s decision also clarifies two kinds of money that might go into the Farm besides the City funding, local councillor Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) explained after the vote. Proceeds from ordinary fundraising (donation boxes, venue rentals, and so on) will go to offset operating costs, while sponsorships (for instance, if a corporation wants to pay to refurbish a building) can go to capital expenditures and property enhancements. (Previously it was unclear whether sponsorship money would need to first cover operating expenses before it could go to something like repairs.)

The business plan was developed in response to the City’s most recent budget debate, when council was under pressure to reduce costs and targeted City-funded zoos (on the Toronto Island and in High Park, as well as Riverdale) for cuts. A massive public show of support for the Riverdale Farm led councillors to soften their stance somewhat, and extend funding to give the Farm time to come up with a plan to reduce the level of funding they need from the City.

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