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City looks to take fee-for-service budget requests to referendum

Coun. Neil Krog immediately wondered why, when the Boundary Museum Society asked for an increase of $12,500 in its request for renewal of a fee-for-service agreement for 2018, that it was directed only at the city and not the surrounding regional district partners in the service. — Boundary Museum website

What is felt to be an inequitable cost split between the city and its regional district partners for several fee-for-service regional organizations will likely form the crux of a coming referendum in Grand Forks.

The idea of an 8.75 per cent annual funding increase to the Boundary Museum’s 2018 budget borne solely on the back of the City of Grand Forks ripped the scab off an old wound in council.

Coun. Neil Krog immediately wondered why, when the Boundary Museum Society asked for an increase of $12,500 in its request for renewal of a fee-for-service agreement for 2018, that it was directed only at the city and not the surrounding regional district partners in the service.

“So my concern is, why are we the majority of (the operating cost)?” he said, when the matter came up for receipt for information during a regular council meeting on Sept. 18.

“We already put in $70,000 into the budget. When it comes to operating cash, it shouldn’t leave the majority to us.”

The city already contributed $70,000 of the $114,200 budget.

Coun. Christine Thompson said it would have to go to referendum if the input of the regional areas was increased, since the current figures they contributed were already agreed upon.

Krog still wanted to see if the city could split some of that increase with the regional district, referendum or not.

Thompson wondered if the city should take the budgeting of all of the fees-for-service agreements the city held to the taxpayers of Grand Forks through a referendum.

“The burden (of an increase) should not always lay with the citizens of Grand Forks,” she said.

Coun. Chris Hammett agreed there was a disproportionate amount the city paid for the fees-for-service. She said she had asked the regional district directors if they would “step up” and pay an increased amount come budget time, for both the museum and Gallery 2.

“And the answer was no,” she said. “I would hate to see either of these two facilities close, and I would hate to see this go to a referendum. I think they are a great benefit to the community, but I would like to see a more equitable share of the funding to keep this going.”

Coun. Julia Butler agreed.

“I think it would be a good referendum question on how much we should support these (organizations), she said. “I don’t like the idea of continuously increasing the budgets of these organizations without having some consent from the taxpayers on this.”

The Boundary Museum Society’s 2018 annual proposed budget for the one-year period in 2018 was for $126,700, an increase of $12,500 over the 2017 annual budget.

According to its funding request, the society noted that, since 2009, the museum society has grown “significantly on the six-acre site with new exhibition buildings, living history community programs and community archives” that now demand staffing.

“We are no longer considered a ‘small’ museum as visioning to expand and develop an additional 60 feet to the existing Black Hawk Livery Exhibition Building moves forward,” said society president Lee Derhousoff, in a letter to council.

The society has not requested an increase in funding since opening in 2009.