Several of Prince George’s cultural institutions in danger of crumbling under budget pressures were propped up last week.
At Tuesday night’s final budget meeting for 2002, city council approved extra cash for the faltering Prince George Symphony Orchestra and for the Prince George Public Library, which was in danger of being forced to make severe service cutbacks.
The library had told council the week before the Tuesday meeting that meeting the five per cent budget reduction mandated by the city would necessitate closing the library’s Nechako Branch and reducing hours of operation at the main Bob Harkins Branch for at least part of the year. To avoid that, the library needed $200,000.
Joan Jarman, manager of marketing and development for the library, says the added cash means the library can maintain last year’s service levels.
The added funding brings the total amount granted to the library by the city to approximately $2.6 million, compared to $2.5 million last year. But Jarman says while overall funding is up, inflation and other budget pressures means the library’s purchasing power is still in decline to conserve dollars.
While the library was facing service reductions, the Prince George Symphony Orchestra was in danger of even more severe budget problems. In a presentation to council earlier in the budget process, the symphony’s board told council how reduced bingo revenues and low car raffle sales could force the cancellation of the last of three upcoming masterworks concerts and put the future of the symphony in jeopardy. A one-time, $100,000 infusion from the city Tuesday staved off that possible fate.
Merkel says the symphony benefits Prince George beyond simply providing musical concerts as a recruitment incentive for UNBC, the hospital and other industries. But city councillor Gordon Leighton had initially been critical of giving the symphony the added funds, questioning whether handing over more money was simply a case of “delaying the burial.”