It seems the Okanagan School of the Arts (OSA) has turned over a new leaf after a promising update to Penticton city council on Nov. 5.
After the news broke in February 2019 that the school may cease operations due to financial woes, the community quickly rallied around the school, which has been running for 60 years and is now located within the Shatford Centre at 760 Main St. In March 2019, council voted to grant the OSA $47,000 to waive its summer utility fees and address outstanding operational costs on the condition that a report be provided back to staff including the organization’s business plan,
“Over the summer we hired Kim Palmer (executive director of OSA), installed a new security system and secured two other tenants to occupy classrooms upstairs and stabilize cash flow. After our March members’ meeting, we presented our budget which included the city grant from the period of April to September 2019 and I am pleased to say that we have exceeded revenue by $5,000 for a total of $133,000 and expenses were only $1,000 higher than predicted,” said Keith MacIntyre, president of the OSA. “We still have work to do but we are well on track with our plans. I am also happy to support that our new security system and communication with RCMP and bylaw has greatly improved community safety in and around the building.”
MacIntyre was elected as the OSA president after Robin Robertson resigned in May 2019, and provided council an overview of the challenges that the school has been facing in the last nine years. He noted that the City of Penticton and School District 67 were instrumental in keeping the school’s operations running, and that a total of $1.5 to 2 million have been invested into the building.
“Looking through the documents, it’s clear to me that the operating funds of the OSA were never intended for major capital improvements but instead for day to day operations, utility bills and general repairs. As we continue to grow and thrive, we hope to be able to contribute more substantially to capital improvements but at the moment we are relying on grants and fundraising for this,” said MacIntyre.
MacIntyre highlighted the importance of maintaining the school as the city continues to grow, and with it, the need for event and group meeting space. He also noted that he would like to see the OSA rekindle relationships with local businesses and organizations, and that the school is looking to increase membership by 500 users. Palmer confirmed that current membership is about 600 users.
“I’ve heard countless people tell me they love this building, but I am making a plea to the City of Penticton and the entire community. Show me that you want this building open as much as I do. Bring us your events, buy a membership, bring us your donations, bring us your talents and help us help the community,” said MacIntyre. “We have a history of festivals, events. We have a much higher percentage of artistic talent than anywhere I can think of. Penticton has an army of volunteers. We can do anything, we just have to decide what to do and do it.”
According to MacIntyre, the OSA “set a goal to undergo $470,000 in capital improvement between 2020 and 2029, which includes tax and a 10% margin of error. We will be seeking a total of $500,000 in grants and fundraising income; additional funds will support cosmetic repairs, flooring upgrades, and other improvements.” The school has already applied for funding through the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan (CFSO) and presented to council to see if the previously requested $85,000 in funding for the school that was discussed in March 2019 would still be available.
Coun. Frank Regher, who is the council representative to the OSA, expressed his support of the ongoing efforts made by the school to return its former success. Coun. Judy Sentes had Palmer confirm that individual memberships with the school cost $25 per year, a family membership is $45 per year and there are varying costs for organizations, small businesses and corporations.
The possibility of the city providing additional funding through a municipal grant to the OSA will be covered during the upcoming budget discussions.
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