The Historical Society of Katherine has fired a broadside at Katherine Town Council on the eve of a crucial vote on the future of the Katherine Museum.
The society has taken issue with information made public on Friday by council officers it claims "misrepresents" and "discredits" the society.
The society has called on supporters to attend tomorrow night's council's meeting in a show of strength.
Katherine Times has already been told a large number of supporters plan to attend the meeting where aldermen will vote on whether to rescue the museum or not.
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.
One proposed rescue package, for an extra $200,000, would cost each ratepayer $62 a year, council has been told in agenda documents released before the meeting on Friday.
It is these documents the society has taken issue with.
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.
The society was so incensed by the claim in the agenda, it sourced a written explanation from its auditor the same day (Friday).
It has since made the letter public on its Facebook place, as well as its criticism of council's advice.
The auditors, South Australian-based Perks, says the original audit comment did not "arise from any impropriety" and was "standard practice" in small operating environments like the museum.
Perks said it was included "in the majority of our association audits".
"The Historical Society of Katherine Inc Committee would like to address the misrepresentation of the Katherine Museum's financial situation within the Katherine Town Council's Agenda Report (pages 143 to 145 inclusive) released on the 20th of September 2019, we note that the Agenda is a public document," the society wrote.
"There have been extracts set down from The Historical Society of Katherine Inc 2017/18 Audit Report that have been quoted totally out of context of the Audit Report. Such comments are misleading and wrongfully discredit The Historical Society of Katherine Inc's Board and Management.
"Attached is clarification from our Auditor (Perks Audit Pty Ltd) for public information to address these misrepresentations in the Katherine Town Council's Agenda.
"In addition, we find it curious that our request for funding was quoted on a per rate payer basis contribution where other council expenditure has not been quantified in a similar fashion. Other council expenditure items within this agenda, for example the following report proposal for Leight Creek development has not been represented in a similar fashion."
The museum received many comments of support on Katherine Times' Facebook page last year, with writers saying they would be happy to pay each year to keep the museum open.
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.
Council officers later met again with the museum 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."
Several options will be presented to council tomorrow 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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