Although the city of Millbrae seems to be in favor of additional funding for Millbrae Community Television, the council is holding off finalizing a contract until more information is available about the group’s budget.
MCTV has provided cablecasting services to the city since 1997 and its funding was cut from $86,040 in 2008 to its level of $76,534 for operating costs when its contract expired Dec. 30, 2013.
The council decided last week with a 4-1 vote to extend the current expired agreement until June 30, while re-engaging in negotiations in May.
“Our reserves have shrunk,” said Joe Teresi, president of MCTV’s Board of Directors. “This can’t really continue for us. … We have been working with staff for over a year and feel like we haven’t reached consensus on some of these items because there’s been no guidance from the City Council.”
Teresi added he would like to see the council give staff clear policy direction on the MCTV contract.
MCTV brought forward proposals to restore the 2008 funding level and enter into a longer two-year agreement with the city. The group is also seeking a larger office. It’s currently in a 240-square-foot space and hopes to acquire 750 square feet of space adjacent to the Chetcuti Community Room — formerly a gym — as an additional office/production space at cost of $1 per year. The group said it would remodel the gym with its own money.
Meanwhile, Mayor Wayne Lee said the money to remodel the gym is really the city’s since it helps fund the organization.
“So we’re trying to get an idea of how much money we’re talking here,” he said. “I agree [MCTV provides] an excellent service and people put in thousands of hours of their own time. It’s very much appreciated.”
Lee noted the funding does depend on if its $1.5 million annual fire assessment tax passes in its all-mail ballot April 22.
MCTV’s mission is to develop community access television for the benefit of Millbrae residents and facilitate the growth of a medium, which will provide education and public service programming. There’s one full-time staff member and three part-time workers. MCTV also sells professional services to the cities of Brisbane, San Carlos and San Mateo to generate revenue. It can also fundraise to receive additional funding to cover its operating expenses since it’s a nonprofit. The group has $220,000 a year in operating costs and spends $173,000 for employees and contractors. Councilmembers also brought up concerns about money MCTV owes as part of a promissory note.
Other councilmembers were in favor of restoring prior funding, including Councilwoman Marge Colapietro, who noted over the years MCTV has won several awards and is important to the community.
“I know that the heart and soul of Millbrae television is the people,” she said. “Hard work and generosity. They make an effort to go out and help themselves and 250 square feet isn’t enough.”
The group faces many challenges in not having enough space and money, it said. The organization has been running on significantly less funding from the city than comparable community access stations across the country, MCTV General Manager Andy Pitman previously said. Similar organizations get 90 percent of their funding from local municipalities versus the 45 percent MCTV gets from the city, said MCTV’s Rod Pasion.
Councilmembers Anne Oliva and Reuben Holober agree with Colapietro but want to hold off on approving a new contract until firm numbers were available.
“I believe $86,040 is a reasonable funding number,” Holober said. “I would like to see more numbers from staff on MCTV’s budget before we go forward with approving that.”
Teresi also noted that in a new contract he’d like to remove a clause that makes $16,000 of funding restricted to equipment purchases.
“It’s a large hindrance to our ability to execute our mission,” he said.
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