Katherine Town Council will on Tuesday debate whether to spend more money to help save the Katherine Museum from closing.
The museum is at risk of closing as early as next few months from a shortfall of funding and the Historical Society of Katherine Inc. has asked council for help.
Almost 5000 people have signed on online petition calling for a bail out. The petition was presented in NT Parliament by Katherine MLA Sandra Nelson yesterday.
One proposed rescue package, for an extra $200,000, would cost each ratepayer $62 a year, council has been told.
Agenda documents to be presented to council at its meeting on Tuesday night state the museum already receives $42,197 annually from council - a quarterly grant of $5549.25 to assist in the day to day operating costs of the Katherine Museum and operating grant funding of $20,000.
Agenda documents reveal an independent financial audit report for 2017/18 reported a "qualified audit report as the auditor was 'unable to express an opinion on the completeness of income'."
Historical Society members provided a statement back in November 2018 saying "there are reasonable grounds to believe that the association will be able to pay its debts as and when they fall due".
Council has now been told they no longer believe they will be able to pay their debts from November.
"Therefore, they have requested recurrent operational grant funding from council for $200,000 per annum, (approximately $62 per rate payer per annum), plus the cost of works and repairs."
The society's income in 2017/18 was $38,672 less than the previous year (2016/17) and 2018/19 was $52,367 less than the 2017/18) year while expenses have remained relatively constant.
"Officers note a concern over public money being granted to an organisation that has a qualified audit report in the recognition of income," council has been told.
Council already spends money on:
- GYRACC $30,000
- Katherine Library and Information Service $129,759
- Lindsay Street Complex $23,876
- Museum $53,447
- Showgrounds $253,115
- Sportsgrounds $219,086
- Streetlighting $123,500
- Visitor Information Centre $113,755
The museum committee met with council in July saying due to the loss of sponsorship, the museum was in need of $200,000 each year to continue to operate.
At that meeting it was agreed that Council officers would meet with museum representatives to further consider financial and related matters.
That meeting was held on August 18.
A new rescue package was devised which includes the ongoing $20,000, $35,000 for minor capital and maintenance and a $120,000 grant for two years.
"The $35,000 could be managed by the Museum Committee and with the added value of qualified volunteers deliver greater work and outcomes than could otherwise be achieved."
Council has been presented with three options to consider:
1. No increase to current level of funding provided to the association, the expected result would be the museum closes.
2. The museum closes and the management of the museum comes under the control of KTC. This would require public consultation to determine the level of service (operating hours etc) that ratepayers are prepared to pay for, and more active seeking of grant funding.
3. Provide a one off operating grant funding to the association of $200,000 which will provide funds until 2019/20. During this period the association would be required to provide a business case on how to achieve a balanced budget and demonstrate capacity to attract NT Government grant funding and provide for a period of public consultation over the future of the Museum.
4. Commit to ongoing recurrent funding of $200,000 per annum, which may need to be adjusted into the future with either:
a. Reduction of other services, or
b. An increase to rate payers
5. Commitment to funding support consistent with the Library and the Visitor Information Centre of approximately $100,000 per annum, which under the current Museum operations, is unlikely to provide a long-term solution.
6. Commit to $55,000 in wages and maintenance costs, plus, for a two year period, provide an annual grant of $120,000.
7. Offer $100,000 support for three years on the condition that a further $100,000 each year is raised from other sources and that the council funding is conditional upon a review of the Museums governance and operational structures and arrangements.
Two final options will be presented to council on Tuesday night:
A. That the council will not increase the level of funding it provides to the Katherine Museum beyond the amount provided for in the 2019/20 Council budget.
B. That the council consider alternative options of support for the museum.
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