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Divisions develop over regional district budget

The regional district budget was the fastest to approval in 20 years, but it wasn’t without its points of contention.

Two issues seemed to beleaguer the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen in granting money to Okanagan College and the Okanagan Film Commission. Both issues were discussed at length, had a motion set and then were brought back for more discussion at RDOS budget meetings.

The Okanagan Film Commission original funding was set at the previous year’s level of $34,500, was dropped to $12,500 and then raised to $24,500 at a subsequent meeting. A motion of increasing it back to $34,500 was proposed at the March 3 budget meeting but failed.

“We heard it said by a number of directors this isn’t an industry in economic trouble. I don’t see what justifies it (the increase). Are we so flushed all of a sudden that we are jacking this up by not 100 per cent, but 200 per cent?” questioned Summerland director Gordon Clarke of yet another motion to take it back to $34,500. “I’m convinced that we need to be honest brokers and say the Okanagan is a pristine movie environment — take it or leave it.”

Area F director Michael Brydon also shared the view that the film commission brings only marginal benefit for the cost.

“We are getting zero bang for our buck, yet taking money from our taxpayers. We have been around this issue a million times, at this late stage let’s stick with the compromise. The nice thing about compromise is we give them a bit of haircut and see what happens. Until we tighten up what the film commission is receiving, we don’t know what they are capable of,” said Brydon.

Other directors disagreed. Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells said there are great economic benefits in the communities from bringing movie productions, citing the example of Gunless.

Area B director George Hanson said the RDOS contribution is the same as the North Okanagan’s and far smaller than that of the Central Okanagan.

“My belief is that CORD would swallow this up, and then how many films would come to our regional district,” said Hanson.

Funding of Okanagan College’s Centre of Excellence was another controversial item the board spent several meetings discussing. Penticton director John Vassilaki brought a notice of motion to drop the funding as a result of discussions he had with college officials. Princeton director Randy McLean expressed his disappointment at the board’s last decision to provide the college with $100,000 per year over three years.

“This is very important to us, it’s huge for everyone,” he told the board, citing the new facility’s economic impact on the region as well as its proximity in helping to reduce transportation costs for students.

The original request from the college was $600,000 and was lowered to $300,000 spread over three years. The board eventually opted not to reopen the discussion, giving the budget third reading and adoption.

 

-With files from Steve Arstad

 

 

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