City of Powell River’s finance committee has referred a request from Powell River Council for Arts and Culture to the director of parks, recreation and culture for further study.
At the November 25 finance committee meeting, councillors considered the arts council’s strategic public art plan, which calls for increased city spending to support its activities.
Finance committee chair George Doubt said the arts council is requesting ongoing funding on a regular basis.
“It’s a significant increase of about $66,000 a year for the next three years and it seems to me that’s a difficult thing for the finance committee to do by itself,” said Doubt. “An appropriate way of dealing with this might be to refer it to the director of parks, recreation and culture for inclusion, or not, in next year’s budget. I expect they will be reporting to us in January on what next year’s budget is going to look like.”
Mayor Dave Formosa said as much as he supports the arts, it was never the intention to create a new department for the city to fund. Formosa said he had hoped the arts centre space would provide a “clubhouse,” where artists could show their wares, do their work and create revenue by selling art from the space. He said the arts council is occupying space in the city’s library building, which is free of rent.
“Originally, they asked for a bit of seed money to get them going and to try and get some grants,” said Formosa. “With taxation, I’ve got people going inside out. I was really hoping that it would be a place where they could generate revenue on their own.”
Councillor Cindy Elliott said she understands the intent was to create capacity for ongoing arts programming. She said the arts council has indicated the funding in some other communities of similar size was on par with what was being proposed.
“I agree with councillor Doubt’s recommendation that it should be forwarded to the director of parks, recreation and culture to put her head around as to what the benefits to the community are and whether she wants to include that as a budget submission from her department,” said Elliott. She added that it would be good to see the comparisons.
Councillor Rob Southcott said being married to an artist gives him a connection to the arts scene. He said he didn’t think the arts centre had any more desire to be a department of the city than Powell River Academy of Music, or PRISMA. He said he had gone through the arts council’s business plan and appreciates that it has been able to leverage grant funding to support the operation.
“It really does look pretty consistent with our general policies that want to see organizations like this expand their capacity or ability to function from a revenue standpoint from other monies,” said Southcott. “I appreciate the chair’s suggestion to send this to the director of parks, recreation and culture to sort it out. I hope this can work out because I appreciate what is going on up there.”
Formosa said maybe the director could find money in her existing budget to help the arts council.
“I just don’t want to go after the taxpayers for more money,” said Formosa.
Councillor Jim Palm said the hope was that the arts council would become self-sustaining.
“This is where you need to think outside the box and create,” said Palm, “not just come to council and say we need another $66,000.”
Palm said he is hearing from taxpayers all the time about city finances.
Chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said the current contribution agreement with the arts council had $9,000 in this year’s budget, but the current financial plan for 2022 goes back to zero dollars for operational funding. He said the ask is really $75,000.
The committee gave unanimous consent to send the request to the department of parks, recreation and culture to see if any funds can be found in the existing budget.