Arts foundation and city at odds over stewardship agreement
Hope for new deal dwindles as animosity grows
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 11, 2012 06:00 am
A presentation to city council Monday night about the Arts and Heritage Foundation (AHF) drew a strong rebuke from the chair of the AHF board for not properly explaining the information put before council.
AHF chairman Dr. Alan Murdock criticized council before the presentation had even begun for airing the information it was about to receive in public instead of in camera and warned that some of the data could inflame the population against both the AHF and council.
That data was contained on a PowerPoint slide entitled “AHF (Deficiency) Excess of Revenue over Expenses for the Year” and, taken at face value, shows the AHF is currently $209,913 in deficit.
“If that is left uncorrected, it would truly be unfortunate because it does not reflect the truth,” Murdock said.
After the presentation, general manager of community and protective services Chris Jardine admitted the numbers should have been put in a more appropriate context.
“The way it is presented, we haven’t told the whole story,” Jardine said. “We may have made a mistake with this because of lack of additional oversight.”
What the number does represent, according to AHF executive director Paul Moulton, is spending from reserves on projects such as the Little White School restoration, the Beyond the Frame exhibit that was a part of the 150th celebrations, and other projects agreed to by the board.
“We set this up with our finance and audit committee, with our board, to designate those monies to go to certain things and in order to make sure it was clear what our operating budget looked like, we would always end our financial statements with “revenues over expenses” and then introduce this other expense item, which was money being taken from our reserves to spend on those projects.”
When asked directly, Moulton stated the AHF was not in deficit, neither $209,913 nor any other dollar value.
“Absolutely not. We have a balanced budget. I just felt that we shouldn’t be sitting on reserve money originally derived from our taxpayers.”
The presentation to council by director of cultural services Kelly Jerrott was requested as the chances of negotiating a new stewardship agreement between the AHF and the city seem to grow less likely. The current agreement has twice been extended and will lapse Dec. 31 without a new one.
According to Jerrott, there are communication challenges between the AHF and the city, some duplication of services, especially in the visual arts, and funding allocations to the AHF have increased 163 per cent since 2002, compared to 85 per cent for the city’s cultural services department over that same decade.
Furthermore, the very reason the AHF was founded — to access grant money the city could not as a municipality — might no longer be accurate. Jerrott said the city and a “Friends of” society could access almost all the same grants and by eliminating the AHF, save approximately $1.2 million over five years.
“The city’s financial department has the capacity to take over monitoring without any increase to staffing resources,” Jerrott said. “The relationship between the two sides has been strained for many years and communication channels have not always been respected.”
Council moved in camera following the presentation to discuss the AHF stewardship agreement privately. Three councillors, as well as three AHF board members, have been assigned the task of negotiating a new agreement.
Moulton said the last agreement, negotiated in 2005, smacked of a “servant-master relationship” and as he understands it, “it was ‘sign this or else.’”
“It is in general a pretty patronizing agreement, a pretty directive agreement and it really represents that we work as adjunct staff to the city and frankly I think that’s not a really fair approach to take to a community organization,” Moulton said.