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RMOW announces 2023 Fee for Service funding

The Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council is receiving Fee for Service funding for the first time, while the Whistler Chamber of Commerce is completely cut off
E-Arts2 Anonymous Art Show 29.13 ARTS WHISTLER FACEBOOK
Arts Whistler will receive more $550,000 in municipal Fee for Service funding in 2023. Its annual Anonymous Art Show is pictured.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is doling out $1,239,000 to local organizations in Fee for Service (FFS) agreements in 2023.

On Dec. 6, Whistler’s mayor and council voted 6 to 1 to approve FFS agreements with five local non-profits. The groups receiving funding are: Arts Whistler ($550,000); Whistler Animal Galore ($115,000); the Whistler Museum and Archives Society ($208,000); the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association ($269,000); and the region-wide Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council ($70,000).

All the groups that received funding in previous years got a boost to account for rising inflation this year. Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) and Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) cover most of the program’s costs.

The new agreements amount to funding increases of 15 per cent for Whistler Animals Galore; eight per cent for the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association; and 6.7 per cent for the Whistler Museum. The SSISC is receiving FFS funding for the first time this year.

FFS agreements provide organizations with funding in exchange for the services they provide to the community, which the municipality would otherwise have to pay for.

The only catch is that the RMOW requires a seat at the table at each organization for an elected representative to ensure the allocation is going toward the correct objectives. This relatively new policy took effect in the fall of 2021.

With that policy change, at least one local organization—the Whistler Chamber of Commerce—is receiving no FFS funding this year.

In previous years, the RMOW provided funding to the Chamber to administer some of its programs, such as job fairs and the Whistler Experience Program. Last year the Chamber received $120,000 in FFS funding.

Being part of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, allowing a member of council onto its board would create a conflict of interest for the Whistler Chamber, as it lobbies the municipal council on policies for the benefit of local businesses, explained executive director Louise Walker.

While the financial hit to the WCC is notable, Walker believes the team will be able to weather the loss of funding.

“It was disappointing to lose funding, but we have learned how to pivot over the last few years, and we will find a way to pivot again and continue to deliver this important service,” Walker said.

“There’s no denying it’s a big loss for us. We have been very fortunate to continue with some of our other sponsors like Whistler Blackcomb, and Gibbons Group have continued to sponsor the program, and we will make it work.”

Thanks to an amendment from Councillor Cathy Jewett, Arts Whistler gained an additional $30,000 in FFS funding on top of the $520,000 proposed by staff.

Jewett proposed the 6.7-per-cent increase to account for inflation, noting it is in line with the increase the other organizations received.

While most of council agreed with this reasoning, Coun. Ralph Forsyth raised opposition to the increased funding, citing the work that has already gone into the 2023 budget, and so voted against the amendment and the FFS agreements.

Coun. Jeff Murl cited the rising inflation as a good reason to increase funding.

“Inflation has been a big topic on the budgets and all these other things, and coming from Arts Whistler, I know they struggle to keep staff and maintain operations as it is. So a zero-per-cent project budget is a significant backwards decision when inflation is at seven per cent,” Murl said.

“I don’t think anyone wants to see any of the organizations on this list move backwards in terms of the service they deliver, or their ability to take care of the staff, offer a living wage, proper benefits and make sure that those talented people stay in their place.”

Arts Whistler executive director Maureen Douglas welcomed the additional funding, noting that with inflation rising and more in-person arts events taking place as pandemic restrictions have eased, costs have risen precipitously.

“We’re pleased and grateful [for the increase]. Honestly, every dollar that comes into a not-for-profit charity is huge and contributes to the bottom line, which is sometimes a challenge to get there with a zero budget, especially right now,” Douglas said.

“We’re dealing with inflation like we haven’t seen in decades, and wages need to increase. So there’s a number of challenges, so that extra funding absolutely helps with those a little bit.”