Staff and volunteers at White Rock Museum & Archives have big dreams for the city’s heritage-showcase facility.
But a lack of funding is turning talk of how to achieve those dreams into “exercises in frustration,” council members heard Monday.
“We’re realizing that our ambitious plans are hitting roadblocks,” Marilena Fluckiger, the museum society’s president, said during an opportunity for public comments on the city’s 2014-2018 draft financial plan.
The appeal for increased funding – echoed by four other volunteers, who said the museum’s paid staff can’t keep up with demands – followed an update on the financial plan by the city’s director of financial services.
Last month, Sandra Kurylo told the city’s finance and audit committee that staff are recommending a 5.25-per-cent increase in property taxes for 2014. She explained the boost is higher than projected (3.28 per cent) due to expected major changes to operations and resources required – including the city’s possible purchase of its water utility.
Monday, in response to a Nov. 18 request to look into reducing the tax increase by two per cent, Kurylo told the committee it would require either cutting expenses by $378,000 or finding the equivalent in new revenue.
She suggested the savings could be found by increasing the budget for new property taxes from development by $100,000; increasing the budgets for investment income and rental income by $33,000 and $75,000, respectively; deferring the start dates of two recommended new staff positions (for a combined savings of $110,000); and adding $60,000 from an operating reserve.
In response to a request from museum director Paul Oxley in October for more than double the city’s annual $92,000 contribution, the first draft of the financial plan proposed a $10,000 increase for 2014.
Monday, citing feedback that followed that suggestion, Kurylo recommended a further increase of $23,000 (to a total of $125,000).
Oxley questioned the smaller sum, noting that if grants had kept up with cost-of-living increases, annual funding would total $170,000. He said the proposed grant only ensures the museum remains static and is unable to meet the public’s expectations.
“Why do you want us to just make do?” Oxley asked. “Council has an opportunity tonight to say to White Rock that they believe in the museum.
“The decision before council tonight is for some reason a difficult one. It should be easy.”
Executive director Sharon Oldaker said the museum is “on the cusp” of either realizing greatness or beginning to unravel.
“We have all the puzzle pieces we need, except adequate funding,” she said.
Mayor Wayne Baldwin said it will take time to address the museum’s funding needs.
“It’s unfortunate that your grants did not get increased with inflation,” he said. “But we can try and correct that, however, I don’t think we can correct it all at once.”
The committee voted unanimously to move the amended draft financial plan forward to council. Consideration of first and second reading of the bylaw is anticipated Dec. 16. Written comments will be accepted at city hall (15322 Buena Vista Ave.) until Monday (Dec. 9).