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Board requests funding increase

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The budget discussions for the 2018 Town of The Pas fiscal plan are getting underway and on Monday night the Sam Waller Museum board spoke to Town council.
The museum is asking for an increase in funding of approximately $40,000, up from the $131,000 they received as their annual grant from Town for 2017. That amount was reduced by approximately $15,000 from 2016 as part of the Town’s decision to cut funding to most departments by 10 per cent in order to offset the tax break given to Canadian Kraft Paper.
“Over the years we’ve had a surplus in the budget and now with the 2017 reduction of 10 per cent to the Town grant we were able to cover that in 2017 because there was a surplus which left us about $14,600 short,” said Robin Reader, spokesperson for several board members who appeared in front of council.
“The fixed the costs are to be bore by the Town and so now our 2018 budget has been submitted for your consideration and we’re hoping the Town grant will match the fixed costs,” said Reader.
It was estimated the fixed costs, which include salaries for staff as well as utilities, would come to approximately $170,000 or more. The museum board requested the Town provide $172,000 in funding for 2018, up $1,000 from 2017.
Reader did not sugar-coat the outlook if those costs aren’t offset.
“We’re just hoping that we can continue to have a museum because without the fixed costs being covered we probably won’t have a functioning museum,” said Reader, a comment that was echoed later in the discussion by Sam Waller Museum board chairperson Michael Wyman.
In the past the Town’s grant hasn’t allowed for all fixed costs to be paid either but a combination of museum revenues and fundraising efforts by staff and board members resulted in all costs being covered.
“The Town is on the hook for the utilities and the upkeep of the museum because it is a designated heritage site so the difference of having it open and having it closed is about $40,000 a year. It’s still going to cost you a lot of money whether it’s a museum or not,” advised Reader.
Wyman also noted that should the museum be required to close, the cost to decommission as well as provide severance to staff could cost the Town as much as $500,000.
“The fixed costs that we have plus salaries and benefits come up to $176,000 and we can’t do anything about that, that’s what it costs to run the museum without any of the other add-ons which is stuff we get the other grants for,” said Wyman.
It was noted that in order to help offset the shortfall from the Town last year due to that 10 per cent rollback, the R.M. of Kelsey stepped up and provided a grant, but that counted be counted on to happen again in 2018 or beyond. Additional grant funding also flows into the museum from various agencies and government bodies, however none of that is a guarantee to occur annually.
“It’s one of the most important cultural aspects in the town and without the cultural aspect what do you got,” asked Wyman.
Councillor Andrew Forward didn’t object to the museum’s requested amount but asked if the board has undergone a critical review to see if there are any more efficiencies that could be made first.
“Times are tough and this is the exact same conversation we’ve had with every other department and everybody has made changes because they’ve all come to the conclusion that changes can be made,” said Forward, cautioning that he wasn’t saying changes could be made necessarily in the case of the museum. “Is there a way to rotate the organization a little bit, shift the dynamic a little bit and pick up some efficiencies?”
The Town has been presented with the museum’s budget and requested amount, however council members at the meeting advised they had not yet seen it. The Town recently received budgets back from their various departments and will begin the task of preparing a budget shortly; however the Town’s actual budget likely won’t be out until March or later in 2018.

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Trent Allen
EDITOR
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