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Operating budget shortfall flagged for Vernon cultural centre

Click to play video 'Vernon area politicians moving ahead with cultural centre project' Vernon area politicians moving ahead with cultural centre project
WATCH: It's been nearly two years since Vernon area voters approved borrowing millions for a new cultural centre. However, the project is still in the planning stages and a recent report concluded it can't go ahead as originally planned. Now with the clock ticking to get the project moving, politicians are trying to confirm a location and figure out how to pay for operations budget shortfall.

Politicians in the Vernon, B.C. area are considering cutting the size of a planned cultural centre to save money, after a report concluded the proposed facility isn’t feasible as it was originally pitched to voters.

Vernon area voters approved borrowing $25-million for the $40-million cultural centre project in an October 2018 referendum.

Read more: Voters approve Vernon cultural centre in referendum

The space was supposed to be the new home of the city’s art gallery and museum and archives.

However, the results of a recent business assessment and feasibility study mean voters will likely get a somewhat different project than was originally planned.

In the lead up to the October 2018 poll, voters were told, on average, taxpayers would be paying only a dollar more a year to operate the facility.

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Now a report says a one dollar per household tax increase would leave the facility with an annual operating shortfall of more than $290,000.

Politicians are now looking at other ways to make up the cost.

Read more: Vernon planning for new pool as Coldstream pumps the brakes

“We are not trying to bring in any additional money from taxpayers at this time,” said Amanda Shatzko, a Regional District of North Okanagan electoral area director.

“We are looking at other ways, perhaps additional fundraising or grants, that can make up for those shortfalls.”

Politicians are also considering reducing the building size by 20 per cent and leaving the archive where it is in an effort to save money.

After the funding challenges with the project were flagged, local politicians have recommitted to finding a way to move forward with the project and have set up a committee to spearhead it.

Read more: Heavy rain leads to flash flooding in Vernon, B.C.

“There has been some concerns that not a lot has been done in the last year and a half so we want to get the process moving and that’s why we’ve formed this committee,” Vernon city councillor Akbal Mund said.

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“People of the community have spoken. The referendum was passed therefore it is the job of elected officials to continue working with the process to build the cultural centre.”

However, with a lot of details still to be worked out, the clock is ticking on the project.

It’s been nearly two years since the referendum and the regional district has only five years from the vote to borrow the money for the project.

Politicians are optimistic they will be able to meet that deadline.

Click to play video 'Vernon moving forward on pool project alone' Vernon moving forward on pool project alone
Vernon moving forward on pool project alone