The White Rock Business Improvement Association voted this week to cut funding to Tourism White Rock, a move the city’s mayor said makes no sense.
The resolution – which came as “a total surprise” to tourism officials – was made Monday at the BIA’s annual general meeting.
The resolution is to save the BIA $20,000 per year. Further cuts include an $8,000 contract for a tourism website, $20,000 for a tourism billboard near the border and about $25,000 for graffiti cleanup.
Mayor Wayne Baldwin said Wednesday he cannot understand the logic of the Tourism White Rock cuts, given that the agency exists solely for the benefit of businesses.
While he was comforted by news that the BIA will continue to fund about $90,000 worth of specific Tourism White Rock projects, he remains concerned that withdrawal of the $20,000 base funding could have adverse effects.
“We still have the issue of the basic amount,” Baldwin told Peace Arch News. “I thought that was kind of a given.”
Baldwin – noting Tourism White Rock was formed specifically to help the BIA – described the two organizations as “inextricably linked.”
“It doesn’t really benefit anyone else,” he said.
BIA president Jack Sixsmith said the decision was simply about being fiscally responsible.
It – along with the other cuts – will free up about $95,000 of the annual BIA budget for other initiatives and opportunities, he said.
“All of our decisions that we made at this AGM are all about fiscal responsibility,” he said.
The BIA will continue to fund a variety of Tourism White Rock projects, Sixsmith noted.
“In essence, they’re still our partner,” he said. “Tourism White Rock is a very important part of our strategy and they will continue to be a very important part of our strategy.”
Tourism White Rock executive director Betina Albornoz said by email that the funding withdrawal “will definitely have a huge impact not only on our organization but also the projects we have jointly undertaken for our community over the past few years.”
Albornoz told PAN she learned about the impending decision Monday morning, but said it is too soon to know exactly what the impact will be, or if anything will have to be sacrificed as a result.
“Like anything, any reduction to the base funding affects everything else,” she said. “We’re going to continue to work towards the best outcome.”
Baldwin said the funding cut is not the end of Tourism White Rock, “not by a long shot.”
“We’ve created it at the suggestion of, basically, the business community and we’re not about to let it go,” he said. “We’ve given it more authority than it had before, so we’ll be seeing that through.”
Regarding billboard advertising that was erected near the Douglas border about 18 months ago, Sixsmith said the initiative has run its course, and that the consensus was the funds would be better-spent on improving road signage.
“The initial idea of the billboard was to make up for the fact that there’s so little road signage to White Rock, and we feel as long as the billboard is there, then the road signage will not improve.”
Baldwin agreed that billboard’s impact is difficult to measure.
“The point is, I guess, is that the businesses feel it isn’t working. So, since it was done for their benefit… if they wish not to do that, we will likely cancel it.”