Saanich is accommodating the latest request from the revenue-challenged Horticultural Centre of the Pacific gardens in West Saanich.
Last week council approved HCP’s request to skip its 2016 payment of $24,000 towards the loan balance of $216,000. It’s the remaining balance of a $240,000, interest-free loan Saanich made to HCP in 2011 to build the Mel Couvelier Pavilion.
The loan was initially scheduled to be paid off in $80,000 annual payments, completed by 2016. But that was just unrealistic for HCP says general manager Anne Kadwell, who joined the gardens in 2014.
Restructuring the Saanich loan to a 25-year amortization would bring it in line with HCP’s Vancity mortgage for the 2013-built pavilion, which has $703,000 remaining of its $750,000 loan. The Saanich loan was initially a five-year loan and was already restructured once, when in 2014 it was doubled to a 10-year loan with payments of $24,000 per year.
“The original five-year loan wasn’t possible, we want it to match the amortization payback of the mortgage,” Kadwell said.
Kadwell was not at council but also submitted a long-term business plan for the gardens. It includes a request to restructure the balance of the Saanich loan to a 25-year repayment plan, with an annual payment of $8,640.
Council said they’ll revisit that in 2017.
Money is tight around the Saanich-owned HCP lands and there is much that needs fixing. The main building is in desperate need of repair, including the offices. There are also plans to build a proper entrance, as the current ivy-covered fencing does little to entice paying visitors.
“We need a new entrance, people think we’re a research facility, not a botanical gardens,” Kadwell said.
Administration costs are dire enough that Kadwell and staff bring their own pens and paperclips.
Making matters worse, HCP’s horticultural college suffered a down year in 2016. But Kadwell says the college is already full for 2017. Income for the educational programs have fluctuated from $381,236 in 2013 to just $236,553 in 2016 (projected).
“The educational programming goes along with the economy. We had a really bad year last year and this year it’s looking great,” Kadwell said. “Presently we are donation/grant dependent and burdened with a substantial debt load. The goal is to maintain services with staffing while setting realistic growth goals.”
The HCP report also includes an intention to request from Saanich additional annual grant funding of $65,000 during the 2017 budget deliberation process. HCP currently receives an annual grant of $130,000.
“If I had a magical wand, we’d like to have more staff,” Kadwell said. “We already wear three to five hats. The office has a 10-year-old computer, we’d really like to replace that.”