Councillors consider who should pay for extra gallery costs
The Remai Modern art gallery remains nearly $4 million over budget and questions linger over whether Saskatoon taxpayers should be required to cover that.
At Tuesday’s meeting of city council’s governance and priorities committee, Coun. Bev Dubois zeroed in on a $3-million contingency fund for overspending on the gallery.
City manager Murray Totland said the final cost of the gallery is still being finalized with the contractor, EllisDon Corporation.
Kerry Tarasoff, the city’s chief financial officer, said the overspending is close to $4 million.
“Do we need to have that on the backs of the taxpayers?” Dubois asked. “I’m hearing taxpayers don’t want that.”
She asked why the gallery board can’t try to fundraise for the extra millions.
Totland said the $3 million is being held as a contingency at this point and council still retains the discretion to decide whether to use it to pay for the gallery or pursue another strategy. He said he wonders whether any fundraising push would be successful now that the gallery is completed, however.
“I think it’s a bit of a tough ask to go out and raise another $3 million, $2 million now that the gallery’s done,” Totland said.
The gallery is a city-owned building, the committee heard.
Coun. Darren Hill noted council could decide to loan the money to the gallery and get it back by clawing back the city’s annual operating grant for the Remai Modern.
Some assets inside the building could still raise money through the sale of naming rights, Coun. Zach Jeffries added.
Mayor Charlie Clark called for a comprehensive report on the gallery, detailing the reasons for the cost overruns.
“It’s frustrating to everybody that we’re dealing with that overrun,” he said.
When city council approved the construction of a new gallery to replace the Mendel Art Gallery in 2009, the combined cost for the gallery and the parkade below it were estimated at $58 million.
The cost of the gallery alone is now estimated to be at least $84.6 million, without the $19.5-million cost of the parkade. The parkade’s cost is being paid almost entirely by the city, while the gallery was built with a mix of federal, provincial and city money, plus about $24 million in fundraising.
In October 2015, council heard the Remai Modern was $3.5 million to $4.5 million over budget and the opening was pushed from the fall of 2016 to early 2017.
When it was first approved, construction of the new gallery was supposed to begin in 2011 and be complete by 2014.