North

Buy us out, says tax-addled MacBride Museum to Yukon government

The MacBride Museum Society passed a unanimous resolution at its annual general meeting on Tuesday, saying it's willing to sell its land and building in Whitehorse.

Whitehorse museum says it cannot afford to pay $154K in back taxes to the city

According to the MacBride Museum Society, the museum owes $154,000 in city taxes. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

Whitehorse's MacBride Museum says it's willing to sell its building and land on First Avenue to the Yukon government.

The non-profit society that runs the facility is facing a hefty tax bill from the City of Whitehorse, which it says it cannot afford to pay.

Rick Nielsen, chair of the museum's board of directors, says members gave "clear marching orders" at the society's annual general meeting on Tuesday.

Nielsen says the museum is facing $154,000 in back taxes from the years 2018 and 2019. He says when contrasted to the museum's annual operating budget of $182,000, paying that kind of tax bill is "untenable."

Nielsen notes that before last year, it had never been taxed in its 67 years of operation. But in 2018, the city changed its policy and chose to tax the museum.

The MacBride Museum society passed a unanimous resolution on Tuesday stating if the government wants to buy its land and buildings, the society would accept but with "a 99-year lease with full autonomy to control and operate as an independent society."

'We're looking for solutions,' said Rick Nielsen, chair of the museum's board of directors. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

"We've talked to the government, we've talked to the city, we're looking for solutions," said Nielsen.

"Ownership, from our perspective — and we're considering this now — is somewhat moot. So, selling the land to somebody, government, would be a good solution. So we're having discussions. We want to find a way to resolve this."

In an email to CBC, Yukon government spokesperson Sunny Patch said the issue "will require some consideration and we look forward to discussing it further."

Temporary closure, staff cuts possible

Nielsen said the alternative is to close temporarily, reduce staff, and to increase revenue by any means possible, such as fee increases or generating revenue with "alternate use of some of the space" from the facility. 

He said the museum has prided itself on staying open year-round, but says if the situation continues as it is, the society will have no option but to close periodically.

Nielsen says the museum has prided itself on staying open year-round, but that may have to change. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

He says there have been "preliminary" discussions with the Yukon government about taking over the land and building. 

And he says the museum will continue to lobby the city for a total exemption from city property taxes.

"The board is absolutely adamant, and the membership provided direction, that we're committed to doing the best possible job we can at the museum to display the wonderful artifacts that we have, and the wonderful collection items that we have — and that is our sole focus," said Nielsen.

"However, we have to be solvent to be able to do that."     

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Raised in Ross River, Yukon, Nancy Thomson is a graduate of Ryerson University's journalism program. Her first job with CBC Yukon was in 1980, when she spun vinyl on Saturday afternoons. She rejoined CBC Yukon in 1993, and focuses on First Nations issues and politics. You can reach her at nancy.thomson@cbc.ca.

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