WHITE ROCK – The future of White Rock Museum and Archives’ programs is in doubt, with representatives arguing the organization is too underfunded to gain any headway.
At council Monday night, executive director Sharon Oldaker appeared alongside board directors Paul Oxley and Rice Honeywell to make an impassioned plea to council. They said more funding would be the only way to move the organization into the future.
"We are genuinely worried about our future if we can’t find a way to increase our grant," said Oldaker, who explained that the funding from the city has remained virtually unchanged for the past 20 years.
"I don’t need to tell you how much costs have increased over the past 20 years and the grant we had 20 years ago does not cover today’s budget," she said.
Last year, White Rock council increased the annual funding from about $92,000 to $102,000 and added a one-time $25,000 bonus. For the 19 years prior, that $92,000 funding had remained unchanged and the
trio argued that with costs going up due to inflation, the current funding amount has been buying less and less each year.
"We do need to be able to sustain our basic expenses here and that’s a challenge with what we’ve got," Oldaker told the Now Tuesday. "The big point is that all of our staff is here part-time, we don’t have one full-time staff member."
Oxley brought up the "Big Mac Index" which is used by some as a bellwether to show increases in inflation. While the museum’s funding had remained the same for the past 20 years, the price of a Big Mac has essentially doubled.
"The reality is that the museum is looking to catch us up to where things were when Kim Campbell was Prime Minister," said Oxley. "That’s how long it’s been and our grant money is the exact same as it was."
Oxley explained that staff have come up with a variety of ideas over the past few years to generate revenue and new programming for the organization, but there is simply not enough manpower to get them off the ground.
"Sadly, these ideas lie dying on a table because their (staff ‘s) hands are tied and they are asked to do too much with too little," he said. "Not only is their ability to maintain the museum hindered but to sustain the status quo is constantly under threat."
As such, council was reminded that the city in fact owns the collection and
museum building and the group would like to see more responsibility taken on the city’s behalf.
"The difficulty is that we’re in the business of running a museum, we’re not in the business of anything else," explained Oldaker. "That’s what we know and that’s what we’re good at. The feeling of the society is that city probably needs to take responsibility for the basic costs of running the facility."
To help with immediate costs and for the rest of the year, the society is requesting an increase of $40,000 for 2015, bringing the total amount from the city up to around $149,000, which includes a $7,000 storage fee for artifacts.
In response, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin noted the group’s timing was "impeccable," as the city was just about to consider the budget. However, he noted there were other groups also asking for more funding this year and while trying to limit tax increases, he was unable to promise anything.
"We ask for the ability to provide you with a museum you can be proud of, to provide people with a place they can grow, learn and reflect and an opportunity to do better," said Oxley. "In your hands rests the final success or failures of our venture, please do not let the museum go back to the dusty days of the past. Please fund it properly an d let it do better."