Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Residents lobby for more pool, museum funding

 

May 5, 2022



Sheldon Museum and public pool advocates lobbied for more funding during the borough assembly’s first budget meeting last Thursday.

Borough manager Annette Kreitzer’s draft budget includes $102,000 in assembly appropriations, enough to cover the four part-time positions that currently exist at the Museum, a business manager, collections manager, operations specialist and custodian.

Sheldon Museum board member Lorrie Dudzik asked the assembly to approve the board’s $172,000 request that would pay for its four current staff members, and two additional positions, including a curator.

“A curator is important for the museum to interpret our history as well as to professionalize the institution. Accreditation requires a museum professional,” Dudzik told the assembly Thursday. “An educator is imperative to fulfill the museum’s commitment to educating our students as well as other community members and visitors on the rich history of the Chilkat Valley.”

The borough laid off the museum’s employees in August, which ended the museum’s quasi-governmental status. Museum board members welcomed the change, which they had proposed over a year ago, arguing that it clarifies a convoluted relationship between the non-profit and borough, freeing the museum to make unilateral decisions about staff. The museum board is no longer subject to a collective bargaining agreement with the borough’s union, although the borough will maintain ownership of the museum building.

During that process, some community members voiced concerns that cutting museum employees from the borough’s payroll and eliminating union benefits that come with borough jobs would threaten the public funding on which the museum depends and would impede the museum’s ability to compete for high-quality job candidates.

On Thursday, Dudzik asked the assembly to support staff funding “as they have done in the past.”

Between 2018 and 2020, when the borough funded museum payroll, it spent between $128,000 and $151,000 on staff salaries and wages, not including benefits. Total museum funding ranged between $181,000 and $233,000 during that time.

Last year during budget time, the assembly approved $42,000 in assembly appropriations—also less than the museum requested. Museum board members at the time said they expected staff funding to continue.

“That’s not what I anticipated. (Museum staff) won’t be borough employees,” said Alekka Fullerton, who was serving as interim manager at the time. “That’s the point of the separation,” she said.

The request went undiscussed at the meeting. The budget’s first public hearing is scheduled for May 10 at 6:30 p.m. during the next regular assembly meeting. The budget can be adopted as soon as May 24.

When it comes to the pool, assembly member Paul Rogers responded to pleas from swimming pool advocates to keep the pool open year-round, and to let staff know how much funding the pool should raise to make that happen.

“Do we know or can we determine what it would cost, not necessarily just for the borough, but what it would cost to keep the pool open for the period of time it’s not required to be closed for maintenance so we can give that information to people who are interested in supporting the pool through means other than the borough budget? I think it would be helpful if we could do that.”

Kreitzer said the pool costs, on average, $27,000 a month, but that it can fluctuate and that she would try to get a more concrete cost. While her draft budget originally included the pool’s closure to last from May 7 through July 31, Kreitzer has now kept the pool open through May.

The closure through June was included in last year’s budget and it’s too late to amend the budget to open the pool next month.

As the assembly considers the budget, it will be deliberating on whether to keep the pool open year-round beginning summer 2023.

 
 

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