Wednesday, May 11, 2016

O'Keefe issues plea for funding

by Richard Rolke - Vernon Morning Star posted May 11, 2016 at 1:00 AM— updated May 11, 2016 at 5:46 AM
It may not be easy to have funding cuts reversed for O’Keefe Ranch. On Monday, representatives from the historic site asked Vernon council to back off a reduction in taxpayer grants set to begin in 2017. “I see no reason to change the direction of council,” said Coun. Bob Spiers after the meeting. “The subsidy should not continue.” Coun. Juliette Cunningham is also reluctant to say whether the city may change direction. “We have to look at their finances first before we make a decision on the ranch.” The ranch, which is owned by the city, currently receives $150,000 a year from taxpayers. However, it was decided in 2013 that the grant would be reduced to $100,000 in 2017, $50,000 in 2018 and $10,000 in 2019. City staff say $10,000 was selected because it’s outlined in a contract between the city and the O’Keefe Ranch Society. On Monday, ranch officials urged council to maintain the status quo. “We’d like to see it retained at the level it is now,” said Glen Taylor, general manager. In 2015, 26,474 people passed through the gate, a 21 per cent increase, while more events have been added to the schedule. And while the city has pushed the ranch to be more self-sufficient financially, the events have led the B.C. Arts Council to trim its grant from $42,000 to $34,000. “They want us to be more focused on the heritage of the ranch,” said Taylor, adding that the corn maze and other activities don’t infringe on the heritage footprint of the site. “If we have 50 acres, why not use it and generate extra cash?” About $224,834 has been spent on infrastructure in the last five years, and volunteers provide about 8,350 hours of labour annually. “We have great community support,” said Taylor.
EDITORIAL: No easy answers with O'Keefe
posted May 11, 2016 at 1:00 AM
There’s absolutely no question that O’Keefe Ranch is important to the North Okanagan. Historically, it was the first non-indigenous settlement in the region and it was because of Cornelius O’Keefe’s success, that others made their way here. And for the modern era, the ranch not only plays a key role preserving our past, but it is a major tourism destination. But, however, valuable the ranch is from a social perspective, many Vernon residents may question the ongoing subsidy of $150,000 a year. Vernon council in 2013 attempted to address those public concerns by establishing a plan to wean the ranch off of the subsidy — decreasing to $100,000 in 2017, $50,000 in 2018 and $10,000 in 2019. On Monday, O’Keefe representatives urged the current crop of politicians to reverse the cuts and retain the $150,000. The argument is that the ranch deserves full funding because it has experienced record attendance and new events are bolstering revenue. The challenge, though, for city hall is it has numerous financial pressures, including needing to repair roads and sewer lines. The other issue is that while the city owns the ranch, it is in Spallumcheen and is a regional asset. Why are Vernon residents the only ones footing the bill? The next step is for Vernon council to look at the ranch’s books to see whether the request to scrap the subsidy cuts has merit. And a final decision won’t be easy as the city must balance the needs of the ranch with fiscal accountability to taxpayers.
2014 Registered charity information return for OKEEFE RANCH & INTERIOR HERITAGE SOCIETY

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