Friday, February 29, 2008

Michael Brydon: Analysis of the Pen-Hi Decision

I have taken some time to prepare a reasonably formal analysis of the Pen-Hi decision (see link to the right or click here). I will continue to update this document as new information becomes available.

The analysis contains new (as of late Feb 2008) information about the financing of the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre and some preliminary funding results for proposed performing arts facilities in Burlington and London, Ontario. The basic conclusion of the analysis is what many of us have known intuitively since day one: The City's current course of action paints local taxpayers into a corner.

The experiences of other communities show us that a new performing arts facility in Penticton is going to require significant investment by local taxpayers. To this point, we have mostly been promised a "free" facility—a facility constructed using money from the provincial government, federal government, and volunteer contributions by individuals and organizations. Unfortunately, I can find no recent precedent for full external funding of a performing arts facility in Canada. Indeed, I have found several examples in which cities are on the hook for between 50% and 100% of the total cost of the facilities.

As a consequence of these findings, I have changed my mind on the South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre (SOPAC). Previously, I was in favor of moving forward with it—after all, who would not be in favor of a free performing arts facility? After looking at the numbers and considering the impact on local taxpayers (either increased taxes or decreased spending on other worthy projects), I have come to the conclusion that the SOPAC is little more than a dangerous distraction.

Of course, if the City puts a realistic referendum to the taxpayers of Penticton (of which I am not one; I live on the West Bench) and voters give council a mandate to invest in a performing arts facility, then what I think really does not matter. But I am pretty sure this council will not hold a referendum until they are forced to do so. By that point, the Pen-Hi buildings will be long gone and the choice will between an expensive new performing arts centre and no performing arts centre. Some choice.

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